Provide Certainty!

I was reading a text some days ago, a text in which the author was extremely frustrated by the lack of action and engagement of the crowd versus political issues regarding corruption, unlawfulness, lack of commitment for meaningful action, plain stupidity, etc. I pondered a bit on this and I thought that a return to the basics is heavily needed; therefore there was need for a new article on leadership.

As most of the folks who read at least one book about management know, the crowd (in this case the employees) can be divided into 3 categories:

– the “sheep”, happy to earn a certain income, who see the job exactly for what it is: a place where you go 5 days per week, from 9 to 5, and then you’re free to go on with your life;
– the “careerist”, who is driven by its ambition to succeed and climb the social/professional hierarchy, who is careful about the impression they leave around them and who will stay extra hours at job just to impress potential bosses, aiming promotion for hard work;
– the “scientist, creator, inventor, mentor”, who is so absent-minded and so passionate about what he/she is doing that spends days and nights in his/her office.

The 3 categories are unevenly spread; there is a majority of sheep, a minority of career-focused individuals and you rarely encounter a scientist. Then, the motivations are different: the sheep are motivated by money, the careerists by glory and power, and the scientists by passion. However, everybody is motivated by one important thing: stability/safety. If you want to lead, provide it!

The sheep enjoy stability; the herd is guarded by a dog and is leaded by a donkey or a shepherd. Sheep will even fall in a pit blindly following a leader who provides security, just like the story says it right… A charismatic leader like Hitler has managed to hijack an entire nation of so-called rational people (the Germans) with a good speech, some ideals, and… by providing structure. The human mind hates the void, so any structure is good; in other words, if you put people to work – any work – you provide a frame for their actions, hence providing stability. Knowing that you’re building weapons and you conquer other nations is, for the sheep, a good structure like any other, as sheep don’t care about ideals (scientist do). So, a sheep would say, “it makes no difference if I build cannons or grow crops, as long as you don’t stress me with the responsibility of choosing my own destiny”. Telling people what to do, regardless of direction or consequences, is providing structure, a timetable/agenda, a list of tasks, something to cling to. And if you pay a stable income to these workers… voilà!… you’ve got the perfect soldier who will mindlessly fight a war he can’t and doesn’t understand!

The careerists are driven by medals and pride, yet you cannot get medals in an unstructured environment. You get medals in the UK and you get medals in Myanmar or Cuba, but you don’t get medals in Syria, where there is nobody to envy or adulate you. As a careerist, you need a structure to lead, something that remains relatively stable in time. Also, you need to have “the safety of your chair”, metaphorically speaking. A careerist won’t occupy a position that might be dissolved within a month’s time…

The scientists are driven by innovation. However, you can’t innovate in a place where you don’t know if you’re going to get enough funding. Passionate or no, scientists fled to civilized-stable-safe countries in order to fulfill their dreams and make magic happen.

Many countries have made this decision to provide stability. Take monarchist Scandinavian countries for instance. Take the UK with the Queen who provides stability. Take Japan as well. Take secure fiscal paradises like Monaco or Cayman where you know your bank account content will never be publicly revealed. Take also North Korea or China who, despite being a single party rule, provides security and safety by the fact that its policies are predictable. And take also Egypt who is also a good example of a stable country, the stability being provided this time by the army. Everywhere where you provide structure – and it doesn’t matter what structure – you remain in power and you rule.

From time to time, and in any place, rebels appear. They want freedom, equity, dislike abuse. They struggle and often sacrifice themselves for an idea. But in order to get something moving, you need also the support of the crowd. Seducing the crowd means, along with providing a guiding value, providing stability and structure as well. Then, it’s up to your own personal values to lead like a wise king or a bloody dictator – nobody really cares.

Things to ponder:

While I was in school, high-school, faculty, post-degree training, life was good. I knew that my job was to do my homework and be good/polite, the rest of the problems being managed by my parents. But as my training met its end, I became more and more stress-prone. I had to face the uncertainty of income, I had to pay taxes, I had to make decisions. I had many sleepless nights since then, tormented by what choices to make in an unstable society, plagued by corruption. My creativity eventually dropped, suffocated by stress, as I was wandering from one life direction to another. My best creative times were when I worked as an employee; my salary was stable, so I had time for writing, love, dreaming. I dislike the times when I have to navigate the ambiguity of life.

Several East-Europeans left their respective countries for the West. They work unqualified jobs, especially in agriculture. Their countries of origin have cheap lands and help from the state was available to some extent. However, they preferred to struggle in the West rather than doing the same thing in the East. Why? Is it perhaps because a structure was already put in place in the West, a structure that was absent in their countries of origin?

A competent doctor will always prefer to work in a public sector hospital rather than in a private sector clinic. In private, you do the entire advertising, patient search and acquisition, manage the administrative and juridical stuff. In a state hospital you do your job and then you serenely leave, not thinking about your job until the next morning. In private you’re on a constant lookout for opportunities, not knowing if next month you’ll get enough money to pay your taxes or your employees.

My country is now run by a socialist party, who got 60% of votes during the last election, without effort. The population voted for stability. It’s a state-party, just like 30 years ago during the time of Soviet Union. This party offers stability (only its own members are named in public offices) and security (if you are OK with the party/clique, you can do business without any fear, as you won’t be controlled or fined). The rules are simple, an echo from the communist era: they are based on favoritism and corruption, so they are clear and easy to follow. As long as nothing extraordinary happens, this situation will go on indefinitely, as I, as individual, know exactly what I have to do in order to get what I want: bribe or praise a boss who is going to last forever.

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