Thursday, April 23, 2015

The "L" Word and the "C" Word

Running across this book review of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn't made made me realize how dangerous the "C" word and the "L" word are. The C word is, of course, collegiality and the L word is leadership.

Let's start with leadership and recall some effective leaders in history -- Hitler, David Korash, George Wallace, Stalin, ---- you get my drift. People spout the word leadership as though it is unequivocally a desired and admirable trait. It is, however, something to be encouraged or feared depending on the ends sought. Please, enough with the leadership worship without first telling me where the leader is leading.

Far more dangerous is the "C" word -- collegiality. My goodness, don't you think the collegiality level was high among those in the George Wallace administration or in David Duke's entourage? Paramilitary groups probably are also way up there on the collegiality scale. Underachieving faculties are likely to be collegial as well. In fact, collegiality is most likely to be valued when people are not sure that what they are doing could stand public scrutiny. Like Leadership, collegiality is a concept or characteristic that is to be valued after only after knowing the ends to be sought.

In recent years, "uncollegial"is used as a rallying cry signalling that the actual issue raised cannot be discussed. Can't rely on reason to get your way? Play the uncollegial card! At bottom charges of being uncollegial are actually name calling as the review referred to above unintentionally illustrates. As often as not, it reflects the discomfort the target has created among those adhering to group norms whether those norms are finding a cure for a dreaded disease or barring entry to a country club.

Leadership and collegiality are dangerous words because they have instant appeal without regard for the ends they advance.

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