More on the charismatic leader problem

Dense Discovery – Issue 136:

The current debate should make us more level-headed when it comes to our relationship with work. It should give us cause to reflect on how much we allow our identity to be tied to corporate constructs that don’t have our best interest at heart – not to the extent we like to believe they do. It should make us stop idolising corporate ‘thought leaders’ for anything other than their opinions on maximising profit – certainly not for their guidance on social or moral issues. – Kai

I would change the above slightly: “The current debate should make us more level-headed when it comes to our relationship with work and technology.

From Matt Birchler:

To be abundantly clear, I think this Basecamp situation is bad and gets worse the more we hear about it, and I don’t mean to imply my admiration of the Hey service means I admire the leadership actions at Basecamp. Rewind a year and I would have told you I was signing up in large part because of that same leadership team, but things have changed since then, to say the least.

Matt’s comments are along the lines of what I wrote yesterday about the dangers of choosing technology based on who’s producing it. It’s not that Hey is a flawed product because of the Basecamp founders. If it solves problems for you, so be it, but there’s a moral and ethical calculus that should take place about continuing to do business with them (which takes me into a whole “SaaS solution drawbacks” rant I will save for another day).

We need to remember that these charismatic leaders are not super humans or even better people. They are people, just as flawed as the rest of us. We should cast an especially critical eye when they seem to be getting high on their personal narrative, as Joel says over at Ata Distance:

corporate heroes are mostly marketing. To which I would add that in the case of a Carlos Ghosn, the corporate savior image was nothing but marketing, media manipulation…and good old ‘west is best’ cultural snobbery. The very same western cultural snobbery his apologists use to defend him. [emphasis mine]

Excellent call on including Ghosn, and for those who either aren’t in Japan or the automotive industry check out that story. I went out with a woman who worked at Nissan and spent half of our date talking about him in reverential tones. Her support of him waned, but it took a while for her to escape his glamour.

And yes, they are making Ghosn’s story into a miniseries.

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By Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

1 comment

Be nice with what you write.