Reagan, Bush and Worse!

These three, Involvement, Democracy and the Good,  may seem strange bedfellows!

We may be all for involvement – or believe we are – and may also wholeheartedly endorse democracy.

Fine so far, but what about the Good?

How can we wholeheartedly endorse a system, Democracy, which gives us Ronald Reagan and George W Bush as the leaders of a nation of 300 million people, among whom are the most outstanding in the world in various fields? Is that the best ‘democracy, the system can give us? Have I omitted anybody from the list of strange choices democracy has given us?

Those who know me will know how boring I can be and how bored I have made them on the inherent and very serious weaknesses in our so-called democratic systems.

Involvement and Democracy:

Even though nobody wants to hear me on this, I believe it is their own deep suspicions around the flaws of democracy that makes it difficult for managers to really believe in and commit to Involvement.

Yes, of course, the fear of losing control will play a part in the reluctance of managers to involve people on serious matters and decisions, but they may also mistrust involvement as a form of, democracy which they know deep down doesn’t work.

And, I believe, they are right.  Managers or leaders or whatever we call them should not entrust the welfare and future of their organisations to the whims and vagaries of groups, of group-think, and of voting.

Decide or Involve?

As a result, managers can feel they are caught in a bind:

  1. Do I involve and listen to people and base my decision making on this? Or
  2. Do I decide what is right and best?

I know you can see that this doesn’t have to be Either – Or, but in practice it does.   The manager becomes very clear about what Number 2, above, means, and then works to get the people to agree with this.

The result, most times ends up being:

  • An Agreement which often is a compromise, a fudge,  something that all go along with, Or
  • Managers taking the decision and people feeling that their minds were made up anyway. “I could have told you the outcome before we ever talked about it” people will say.

A Good Decision!

But what if the outcome, the decision the managers took, was a good one, the right one?

And what if the manager or leader was insistent on that being the sole criterion for the decision, the Good? Not their power or right to decide, but what is Good, the right thing to do.

Then, the two options mentioned above are no longer Either/Or, but are two complementary ways of arriving at what is right and best.

In fact, a manager or leader would be foolish on topics of any importance or complexity to only go with Option 2 “I decide what is right and best”.  Option 1 will be a great help to the success of Option 2.

Doing this does put an onus on everybody involved:

  • The Manager or leader has to be very clear that they only want and will only go with what is good, what is right and best and what makes sense.
  • The group or team has to be equally clear that ultimately in many cases it is the manager’s prerogative to decide what is right and best, having involved and heard from people.

This might seem a nice idea or process or it could look like indecisive or weak leadership.

Powerful Management and Leadership.

However, either of these will be true only if you don’t believe in the power of what is Good, True, Meaningful.

What has gone wrong with Democracy is that it has become a game, mostly a media game, in which the most resourceful and, unfortunately, most manipulative wins.  Not what is good, right or meaningful.

The Good is a part, a small part in the game, to be used as one needs and forgotten or dismissed as impractical or secondary to the real game.

I could bore you with how this might work at national levels but I won’t. Nor do we need to see or make it work at national levels in order to be able to make it work in our organisations and in how we lead them.

it is the Good we are after and it is this that will get the involvement of people and it is for this that we need the involvement of people.

Far from this making you weak as a manager, it will give you enormous strength to have what is good and right and best on your side…as well as your people.

Mind you, this will be a very different kind of power from the kind that Reagan, Bush and whatshisname use.  Different, easier and much more effective.