Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Searching for a Strong Leader

There's a strange and frightening fantasy gaining currency in the West.

In fact, it has been doing it these twenty years of economic expansion: we have called it "management skills" or "leadership skills" and our companies (many of them now shown to be crooks, or swindlers, or simply twats) have wanted only those with "leadership skills". They have, consistently, wanted people whose desire it is to control the thoughts, work and output of others.

To build profit, of course.

Now, I have no problem with profit. Profit is good. Profit works.

But we know now that these "leaders" were scamming us all while they hired and fired, while they wrote big thick books on how to be team players (there's no I in team), while they set up the human resources departments full of discipliners, counsellors, facilitators and time and motion tossers.

We also know that many of these people were simply given a job with which to indulge their passion for fucking up the lives of others; for holding them to made-up government standards; for refusing to see the evidence of their own eyes - for, you see, the evidence of one's own eyes is as nothing compared to a government tick list of targets.

In Alastair MacIntyre's book, "After Virtue", the philosopher sets out how managerialism strikes: firstly some guy who knows his job invents a tick list to make it easier. Then someone else takes over and uses the tick list a bit more than the first guy. Then someone realises that the tick list is comprehensive and makes the next guy learn the tick list first. Then has the tick list become the first and key part of the job, and it drives the people who come in, over and above the knowledge of their area. Expertise is then driven by knowledge of the list, and people are brought in to maintain the list.

I have no idea if this holds.

But my experience of people suggests it isn't far off the mark.

I think there are a lot of people - a lot - for whom being in charge, and control, is desperately important. I think these people pretend they do it for "the good of the company" or to pay the bills, but in fact there are lots of ways to pay the bills. There is however only one way to control people, and that is to control people.

So they do it. And they hide behind codes of conduct, contracts, best practice, inspections, assessments, reviews: at the end of it all they want to tell other people what to do and they do it.

So here we are in a serious recession and there are bloggers and columnists calling for strong leadership.

We have had twenty years of embedding exactly this concept into the professions. Everyone in the professional castes now believes in the virtues of strong leadership (many management teams have switched from the word "management" to the word "leadership"); no-one really knows the way out of this recession, but we all seem to be clamouring for someone who does.

In the last global fiscal depression management theory had made its first major strides, based in part on the shovelling-human-beings-into-the-bin strategies of WWI. People had become targets and target-fulfillers.

This is stage two. People have been target-oriented now for longer than they recall. They have been, knowingly and willingly, not even cogs, but teeth on the cogs.

Now we are desperate for the Leader. We all look to leaders, we all ache to be a leader, so it makes sense that we are mad keen for the Leader to take us out of all this.

(In the meantime we will fire and destroy whoever is below us, to preserve our productivity and our action-oriented status, and we will pretend it is for the company - a sort of working towards the Fuhrer technique, where evil is driven as much from below as from above).

The Leader. Who Are They? Where Are They?

Please Save Us, Leader. We Look To You. We Love You.

Well, here is TTD's message to The Leader, whoever she may be:

Fuck off.

Fuck off and die.

Believe you me, it is for the best.

Fuck leaders: satirise, expose, humiliate them wherever they occur. Destroy, fire, suspend them wherever you can. It is leaders who will take us down. Take away their pretensions, their jargon, strip them of their powers, force them to admit what it is they really want: hold leaders to account, before and above their followers, and subject them to the same torture their followers suffer. Fire them on a whim, cut their hours, cut their shifts, send them down the job centre. Don't let them whine about their hours, about their stresses and strains, about their heartbreaking responsbilities - they wanted it, they loved it when times were good and they were out of the limelight. Let them do it, let them go down. Fuck them.

Only people, real people with good ideas motivated by love of their ideas, will help us. Let us build a world where ideas, concepts, work is valued above the people who organise, manage and sift those things. Where thinking is good, in and of itself, not where it needs to tick x number of the right boxes.

People who wish to control will fuck everything.

Yet again.

Fuck the Leaders.


Crushed said...

It is the need for a Silverback.

Ingrained in all primates.
We are such a toung species.

But yes, we need to move on from it.

Anonymous said...
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Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Maybe its not so much a problem with "strong leaders", more a problem with too many followers?

Like Hitler was a string leader, but he would just have been another nut case on a street corner without followers.

Maybe we need to be a bit more grown up a bit more independent.

The Tin Drummer said...

CBI: do you mean money? No it is not that. "What we mean by pure power you will discover presently."

No, not money. Money does not enable you to tear hearts apart. Power does.

SC: Calm down - cold shower for you.

Moggs - yes, absolutely, but my point is that in management theory over the last 20 years we have absolutely embedded the idea of the strong leader in what was (we thought) a liberal democracy.

My fear is that the profesional chickens will bring their briefcases home to roost.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

So you say there has been conditioning done to make people more receptive to "strong clunking fists"?

Maybe we need some conditioning that makes people more independent, people who laugh at the idea.

Private eye anyone?

The Tin Drummer said...

I think there has been, yes. We've gone along with it completely. We admire people with leadership skills and denigrate the mavericks and loners.

Interestingly the strong satire movement of the 60s is almost dead today, with most satire being just fake news stories or being very safe (like the Eye is these days). Even Viz prefers to have a go at middle England and the Daily Mail rather than pulverise the government (Which they did in the 90s with sharp cartoons like Baxter Basics).