OUR CONTEMPT FOR AUTHORITY
Posted by Tim Bryce on July 8, 2015
BRYCE ON LIFE
– Why do we dislike our leaders?
If you watch television news, you no doubt have recently seen numerous examples of contempt for authority, be it in the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson, our distrust of politicians, as well as in business. We also show contempt in the nonprofit organizations we participate in, be it homeowner associations, clubs, the coaches, umpires and referees in youth sports, even God and religion. It would be hard for me to think of an institution not undergoing criticism of some kind and it seems we are about to boil over at any second.
I tend to believe a lot of this is due to living in a heterogeneous society mixing different religions, races, and cultures. We are also taught to value individuality over teamwork, and not to respect our elders, particularly teachers. This is the opposite of countries like Japan, which is a homogeneous society embracing cooperation. We can also blame declining moral values and common courtesy for our sense of contempt.
When it comes to government, our country is split along ideological lines, which explains why there are low approval ratings for our Congress and President. I trace our contempt in the modern era back to President Lyndon Johnson and the Viet Nam War, a difficult war that was not supported by the American people. Then there was Richard Nixon and Watergate, an ugly affair where the president made some mistakes and was hounded out of office by the media. Prior to this, we respected the office even if the president didn’t belong to our party. Sure, we often disagreed with a president’s position or policy, but there weren’t the visceral attacks like we have today.
Our elected officials are so berated they are now showing signs of contempt for American voters, thereby taking them for granted and only approaching them at election time for money and votes.
Today, black rioters show little respect for the rule of law, claiming instead to be victims of slavery and inequality. Whites scratch their heads in bewilderment. According to today’s standards, a person is presumed guilty until proven innocent in the court of public opinion.
In business, workers look at managers with disdain, thanks in large part to micromanagement. Likewise, nonprofits suffer from leaders on an ego trip as opposed to solving real problems.
When you consider our contempt for authority, we are basically saying to our superiors, “You haven’t got your act together.” It is difficult to respect an authority figure if they cannot demonstrate leadership of any kind, be it your boss or government officials. People have become so frustrated, they seek to undermine them at any chance they get, such as what we witnessed in Baltimore.
Some institutions do not permit contempt, as in the military, where the chain-of-command must be maintained otherwise anarchy and mutiny will ensue, and lives will be lost. Interestingly, in the military, they are taught the duties and responsibilities of the next officer in charge. This is done in the event a superior officer is killed or incapacitated, thereby the next person in line must be put in charge without losing momentum. This is also done in other parts of the government, but not so much in nonprofits or business. As an aside, the earmark of a good leader is to prepare his subordinates to succeed him in the event of a calamity. Failure to do so is an expression of contempt for your subordinates.
Whether you are the boss, a government official, a member of the clergy, or whatever authority figure you can pronounce, it is simply a matter of leadership. In this country, it is our Achilles’ heel. I believe the American people are desperate for true leadership and are frustrated one cannot be found in our government, not just now but in the foreseeable future. Maybe such people no longer exist, which would be a tragedy.
It is not easy being the leader, particularly in an institution where the person is not properly trained. Quite often people rise above their level of competency, aka “The Peter Principle,” making them ineffective as a leader. Companies who do not properly train their managers in leadership are simply inviting contempt to flourish among their workers.
There are several facets to leadership, but in a nutshell, a leader must be fair, determined, know how to motivate their subordinates, work with people, and above all else, demonstrate they know what they are doing. Unfortunately, we see little of this in today’s world which explains why contempt is so prevalent.
Think about it, is this why we no longer trust our government? Or why we loathe the boss, or all the other people in a position of authority, even youth sports? Isn’t it a matter of people failing to demonstrate they know what they are doing? Anytime you see a budget running in the red, if we cannot live within our means, people feeling ignored or in need, or the affairs of our enterprises are not being properly managed, these are all indicators of ineffective leaders, and an expression of contempt.
However, let’s hold those people in contempt who truly deserve it, not just because of misinformation and lies.
It’s not a matter of answering a single question right or wrong, but a leader’s overall body of work in the aggregate that is of importance. After all, we all make mistakes and do not agree on every decision or policy, large or small. We must find those people who are, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails Daring Greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”
If we can find such people, I believe we will lose our sense of contempt.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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