Over on the Infinite Loops Podcast #167 the author, entrepreneur, and former White House advisor (under George W. Bush), Dr Pippa Malmgren talks about leadership – namely, what gets in the way of good leadership and (from our perspective) what gets in the way of building a great business culture.
Though her answer is complex and takes up a lot of the episode, the short answer is: “Big Egos.”
i.e. “I’m so awesome, I should be allowed to act poorly and get away with: greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth because I say so!”
Not only that, she says that we seem to be living in an era that encourages such behavior. Think of all the bad leaders (from all sides of the political and cultural spectrum), who are utterly consumed with themselves. Politics, business, Hollywood, media, you name it. We all know who they are, and they’re constantly in the news, constantly renting space in our heads.
The thing is, we let them. Often, we make them heroes.
Sometimes it’s just that we’re just too afraid to stand up to them, too afraid to walk away. But a lot of the time, it’s our own egos enabling them. We put up with it because we think it’ll benefit us somehow, regardless of how dreadful they are.
This explains a lot of the monstrous behavior we hear about behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. For every high-powered celebrity being exposed, there’s usually an entire army of sycophants protecting and/or enabling such behavior.
Yes, it’s easy to blame a bad culture on a single bad leader. And yes, a bad leader is a big part of it. But we also tend to be complicit, far more often than most of us would care to admit.
“The Ego Is Always At The Wheel” -Delmore Schwartz.