Search This Blog

May 8, 2017

The House of Cards Syndrome

Over the years, I have found a couple of simple tests to find people who I can ask for advice and who make good leaders. The most important is this: can you support an idea what comes from someone you dislike? The other side of the same test is similar: can you oppose some ideas that come from your friends, or from your boss?

Here is how it goes: I speak with a perfectly reasonable, and intelligent person; we are having what appears to be a rational conversation. Then I suddenly realize that all the reasoning, all the suggestions and objections are this person’s attempts to support her friends and punish her enemies. I just want to say, would you please relax a little, this is not the House of Cards; we are simply trying to figure out the best solution for a small problem. No intrigue, and no political strategy is needed, OK? Bad people may have good ideas, and good people may be wrong, and the way you divide people into good and bad is flawed. Can we just concentrate on the task at hand? I never say any of this, because the person is afflicted by the House of Cards syndrome and is not going to see it. She or he is just fine otherwise, and could be a delightful colleague in every respect. I would just never ask her or him for advice, or ask to be polite only. Nor will I ever support this person to be in a leadership position. The HC syndrome disqualifies from leadership, unfortunately. I am not passing any moral judgement here; but we all have limitations, and I have a plenty of my own. However, if you are color-blind, you cannot be a pilot. If you’re too tall or too heavy, you cannot be a jockey. If you lack in empathy, you should not be a teacher. This is the same kind of a limitation – perhaps not fair to you, but fair to others. So, we still like you, it is just you cannot be in the lead.

All our judgements are always colored by relationships with others. We tend to support people we like and oppose the people we dislike. However, most of us routinely get over the bias, and discuss ideas and actions on their own merit. It takes an effort, but we do it all the time. If you have the HC syndrome, you are simply unable to do that. Every step is a move in a great chess play for you, the struggle for power and influence. And you may not be yourself power-thirsty, no, you just see other people in that light. The weird symptom of the HC syndrome is that you suspect everyone has it. You see the world through this particular lens. People are divided into friends and enemies, and nothing good can come out of the enemies, while a friend can do no wrong.

If you a leader with the HC, your management is poor – you almost never make good decisions, because you consider the political implications only. You will sacrifice promising projects because their success may make the “wrong” people stronger. You will support weak initiatives, because they allow you and your supporters look better, even for a short time. If you got the HC syndrome, you will spend all your time spinning intrigue, so some of the basic functions will inevitably suffer from neglect. You just won’t have the time for work, because all your time is spent compiling materials evidencing that so and so is an incompetent person. You will also slow down any development and growth, because you cannot tell a good idea from a bad one.

You may thrive in a truly political environment, but we are not a political body. We are a university. Hundreds of thousands of kids and their parents want a good teacher, a counselor, a psychologist, and we make sure of it. We cannot lose that perspective.

I cannot say for sure where the syndrome comes from, why some people are affected while others are not. Nor can I give any examples where people got rid of it – perhaps I simply do not know of any.

No comments:

Post a Comment