Power And Leaders

Power And Leaders

“What’s the paper in your hand?” Lulu, asked me. Among the most curious specimens of the order Psittaciformes is Lulu, my parrot.

Sujata Deshmukh wants me to answer some questions on leadership; deep as they are it has set me thinking.”

“Trust Sujata to do that; what’s the question?”

Lulu, the Parrot

“What is one characteristic of a leader which could lead to disaster and his downfall?”

“So? What’s your answer?”

“Thinking about it. Lack of integrity, corruption…. I mean there are many characteristics which will cause a leader’s downfall.”

“Usually people display good level of integrity. Nobody wants to be corrupt. All that is the result, usually, not the cause. Power destroys leaders when leaders get power hungry.”

“They get drunk with power,” I looked at the coffee table book on World War II. I thought Hitler was staring at me.

“You said ‘drunk with power.’ That provides a remarkable insight. Hidden under those words is the metaphor of alcoholism and it so true, so apt!”

“Don’t speak in riddles. Your language reminds me of OD consultants”

“Ha, ha! Look, nobody likes the first taste of alcohol; be it wine, whisky or beer. You ‘develop’ a taste for it. Perhaps because that’s what grown up men, people to whom you look up to, drink.”

“They are aware of the danger involved……”

“…..and you decide to do it only occasionally. Social drinking. In their initial days good leaders seem to use power sparingly. They invite participation.”

“And then they start enjoying it more and more. I got it. Getting drunk with power is not different!”

“Wielding power and empowerment do not go together. There is nothing more ridiculous than a leader saying ‘I empower people.’ It is like telling a dog on a leash that he has freedom.”

“Oh! That’s too strong an expression. Don’t leaders empower people?”

“Leaders create a culture of empowerment; it is different from a leader empowering people. In such a culture alternate view on any issue is heard and not dismissed summarily. The empowerment culture comes out of respect and dignity. People feel valued and contribute well.”

“People observe the leader and imitate him.”

“True. That is why power distances people, empowerment culture brings them closer.”

“When power distances people, it is an invitation to corruption. Didn’t Lord Acton say ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’”

“Ha, ha! Lord Acton got it wrong. As Osho pointed out, only a corruptible can be corrupted. There are several examples of honest leaders too.”

“Is there any psychological test to identify the corruptible?”

“It is better to focus on identifying the honest. And it is also important to check who is interpreting the score.” Lulu laughed, looked at me and flew away.

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”