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Character traits of powerful people

Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 8:47 pm
by BetterWorld
One of the big ironies about people with the most power is that they are often the least qualified to handle such power.

In an earlier post, I have discussed hierarchical structures in societies and how they squash human potential. However, if you zoom in on those who make it to the top, and who you could argue belong to the tiny minority that is able to use the structures to their benefit, they usually have very distinct characteristics.

In order to get to the top of a hierarchical structure, you need to possess certain character traits that are generally considered unsympathetic. You need to be willing to put yourself first, at the expense of others or a cause. Be willing to run people over. And be able to be disingenuous or to outright lie.

Now, this is what is needed to get to the top. However, the irony is that this is also what at the same time disqualifies you for the task of leading other people. Because you have proven that you will not handle your power responsibly. And because you have proven that you will put your own needs over the needs of others or a cause.

The most obvious example of this is in the political sphere, where the desire to be at the top rather than your credentials decide who becomes prime minister and president. This is of course most clearly seen in dictatorships. But it is also seen in representative democracies, and goes a long way in explaining the current political crises and public dissatisfaction towards politicians sweeping across the Western world.

This does not mean that people with good intentions don´t enter or stay in politics. And they might make it to parliament. And they perhaps will even become minister of culture or education. But they, with very, very few exemptions, will not make it to the very top. Because people, who are pure at heart, are not able to do the things that they need to do to get there.

The implication of this rationale is that the people sitting at the top of our governments, even in the Western world, are very, very rarely the best for the job. And that in any single country, there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands or tens of thousands, of ´ordinary´ citizens, who could do a far better job.

Doctors. Teachers. Judges. Engineers. Architects. Aid workers. Scientists. Pharmacists. Therapists. People of skill and of pure hearts. Those are the people that should lead nations. Because they have the required intelligence and experience. And because they can be trusted with power over others. Because we know that they will use this power responsibly. And for the benefit of the greater good – and not for themselves.

But, as we know, that is not the way the current world works. Where the most important questions are left up to morally damaged people. And where the eventual fallout is usually as predictable as it is sad.

Re: Character traits of powerful people

Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 8:49 pm
by BetterWorld
PS: As a general rule, the longer the hierarchy, the higher the chance of ending up with a morally compromised leader. Where the hierarchy is very long, and where it takes years to get to the top, pure-at-heart people will usually not have the stamina to persevere, due to all the morally corrupt things they need to do to climb ahead of others. For the morally compromised, however, who are pushed by a drive to be at the top and to shine and to dominate others, the everyday immorality is much easier to bear. This logic is also the reason why you will tend to find more morally compromised people in the national parliament than in your local city council, for example.

Re: Character traits of powerful people

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2018 3:41 am
by synapser
I've spent a fair amount of time being personally upset by this reality in the societies of the world. It is actually the reason I never pursued enlisting in the armed services. I find that the existing hierarchy that is in place depends heavily on geography, which seems to me an outdated system given the speed and reliability of communication in an increasingly globalized world. However, I've never really accepted that a "long" hierarchy is to blame. Placing political power with the individual should be the promise of democracy. The free organization of people into groups with common goals is supposed to grant that political power. Perceived status within towns and countries when political power is granted appears to me to create a drive to obtain office simply to be granted admission into a higher class. I think extending a hierarchical structure down to a more individually meaningful level would return the power a two party system, the existence of inequity in the electoral college, and divergent goals of geographical organizations to the individual. By forcing by law a group of say 9 or 13 people to grant 1 of them power to exercise their votes would create a more meaningful level of participation in the political process. In this small group, or bottom up, democracy swaying the opinion of a few individuals would then change the representatives responsibilities. Adiditionally, power would be more likely to fall into the hands of people with demonstrated moral behaviors. However, I've yet to find a comfortable way to allow the population the freedom to restructure their small groups or avoid the emergence of corruption and participation in multiple small groups.