Organizational inertia is exacerbated when leaders succumb to the strong forces of temptations.
Temptations for organizational leaders include (but are not limited to) maintaining the status quo, keeping the bureaucracy in place, and making sure that the can gets kicked far enough down the road that any consequences from that act of can kicking won’t sully their future reputation.
Bureaucracy is a temptation.
Maintaining the status quo is a temptation.
Practicing avoiding looking at trendlines is a temptation.
Focusing on the wrong changes at the wrong time (or the right changes at the wrong time) is a temptation.
The struggle for people who have not been designated “organizational leaders” is that there are all kinds of changes that need to be made, processes that need to be upgraded, and solutions that need to be advocated for within organizations.
But tragically, there appear to be no leaders interested in anything other than being tempted into continuing to be the politicians they maybe always were in the first place.
People not designated “organizational leaders” have been inculcated since at least grade school into the idea that being picked, being chosen to make a change, rather than independently choosing to imagine, take a risk on, and advocate for a new paradigm, is the only way that changes can happen.
But with the current level of systemic failure in organizations everywhere around us (from governments to small businesses), and with the dearth of leadership interest or experience evidenced in leaders who were picked, we don’t need more preservation of temptation.
We don’t need more political solutions to leadership temptations.
Instead, the people not designated “organizational leaders,” who are trapped in organizations (and trapped in systems at a higher level) should choose to put on the mantle of statesman—or stateswoman if you prefer.
A statesman chooses themselves (and their allies), raises their hand, says “I will take responsibility and accountability if an initiative fails, and will give away credit generously if it succeeds,” and is not tempted away from the course by bureaucracy, maintaining the status quo, avoidance of trends, or distractions.
A statesman calls the bluff—respectfully, firmly, but clearly—of the resistance.
This bluff calling—in all its varied forms—requires persistence, courage, self-awareness, a high tolerance for risk, and, of course, a strong dose of candor along with clarity of vision and purpose.
We need more people not designated “organizational leaders,” with the courage to choose themselves to be the statesman in their own sphere of influence.
We need fewer people designated as leaders (who behave like politicians) succumbing to temptations in our organizations and systems.
And we need them today.