Excuses for Complacency

It’s no secret that we at TomorrowToday are fans of Seth Godin, the author and business thinker. We often share his daily blogs internally and discuss them – they’re inspirational and insightful.

Here’s one from a while ago that made me think. One of the biggest issues our clients face is the mismatch between the expectations and experiences of senior leaders and the top executive. Middle to senior management often complain that they don’t have the authority to deliver on the responsibilities they have been given. When they come on courses our team runs, they complain about how the executive leadership of their companies are inflexible, detached and unsupportive. But when we speak to the senior executives of those companies, they complain that middle and senior management don’t take initiative, are too passive and are stuck in unproductive patterns of work. This is a strange anomaly.

I think what Seth says here offers part of a solution. For both management and executive leadership.

Authority as an excuse for complacency

“I thought you knew what you were doing…”

One of the principles of being on the bus, in the class or in your seat is that you are along for the ride. The teacher/boss/driver knows what he’s doing, just shut up and sit still.

Apparently, we have come to embrace this. It’s safer, and easier too. With this worldview, all blame clearly goes to the people in charge, and powerlessness is a seductive habit.

What a shame.

In an industrial setting, giving up our independence in exchange for eager compliance can lead to productivity and thus success. As that age fades, though, our habit of surrender might not pay off.

The internet is an organizing tool, a connection to billions of others. We’ve been given a keyboard and a megaphone, a way to change the story or the election or the policy. The authority that comes from asset ownership or experience is worth less than ever before, but we are often eager to defer to it, even when we know that the authority is wrong.

No one can force you to stand up, speak up and make a difference. But if you back off and play along, please understand that whatever happens happened, at least in part, because you acquiesced.

Source: Seth Godin

Authority gavel

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