The problem at the very top

In any type of institution whatsoever, when a self-directed, imaginative, energetic, or creative member is being consistently frustrated and sabotaged rather than encouraged and supported, what will turn out to be true one hundred percent of the time, regardless of whether the disrupters are supervisors, subordinates, or peers, is that the person at the very top of that institution is a peace-monger. By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider, someone who is more concerned with good feelings than with progress, someone whose life revolves around the axis of consensus, a “middler,” someone who is so incapable of taking well-defined stands that his “disability” seems to be genetic, someone who functions as if she had been filleted of her backbone, someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas – one whiff, on goes the emotional gas mask, and he flits. Such leaders are often “nice,” if not charming.

This principle of organizational life is so universal it may be rooted in protoplasm itself. It will operate to the same extent regardless of the sociological or psychological profiles of the individuals involved, and it is equally applicable to a family or a nation – that is, to a parent or a president.

(Edwin H. Friedman, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, pp. 13–14)

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