Quick Reflections on Power and Leadership
My Chinese colleague told me yesterday that as much as people in China hated what Trump said about them and what he did to their country during his time in office, most of the general Chinese population still respected his leadership. They respected the leadership of a guy who started calling the virus the “China virus,” which lead to anti-Asian attacks and social media content.
In other words, they respected him as a leader because he was cut-throat. Ruthless. I don’t know how else to say it. Someone who takes actions that did not benefit the greater good, but benefitted the bottom line (or his bottom line).
The perspective is interesting, coming from a culture with business rituals that are based in respect and formalities. How is the importance of face, patience, politeness, and modesty overpowered in the Chinese mind by someone like Trump who exudes the exact opposite, being someone who is impulsive, vulgur, and disrespectful?
Every culture is full of its own contradictions because people are full of contractions. But I think what is underestimated when we think of our views of leadership is the ability to actually make change. People can be fooled by charisma, or appreciative of a logical leader, or respect someone who takes care of their people, but the leader that can create changes has power.
And in the end, that’s what most people are looking at when they see a leader they like. Whether that leader gained power for the less than powerful by leading a social movement or the leader made a sweeping drastic change on something that most people thought held its own power. Or maybe consider a leader who was a minority and made it against the odds. That is powerful.
People enjoy harmony, but they respect someone who isn’t afraid of the system or hierarchy. A leader doesn’t have to be “cut throat” to tell their employee they should go home early and take a break. They don’t have to be “ruthless” to clearly communicate to their boss the resources their office needs. Leaders can still use politeness, patience, and build relationships, but the respected ones put it towards making change happen and taking action. (for action-oriented, see South China Sea power struggle).
That’s all to say that while the recent SCOTUS decision is a devastating change, I can imagine the tremendous power those who agree with it are feeling by the result of a long game. A game played over years that involved instilling fear among people and pushing through, often unfairly winning, the structural aspects of hearings and appointments.
The pessimistic says that the “correct/right/moral (according to the modern world)” doesn’t always win, and such is life. The optimistic hopes that this is a turning point where the ones who aim for harmony realize it cannot be achieved without also building power needed to create change.
…and yes, I am aware of the book 48 laws of power…combo of hits and misses, in my opinion. I’m also aware of the care needed when I speak around someone whose mindset would potentially put their own objectives over any relationship built…