Chapter 3: The Real American Idol, Part 13
In his article “What Is So Terrible About Idolatry?” Rabbi Tzvi Freeman connects a culture of idolatry to the dangers of hierarchy. “[In the pagan world] Rulers found that a good mix of secret knowledge and convenient mythology could be an instrument of power over the populace; that by controlling the flow of knowledge they were able to hold the people in awe and obedience.”
Leadership guru Tom Peters also wrote of the dangers of hierarchy in his book In Search of Excellence. Peters found that the “Excellent” companies had strong central values brought the organization cohesion. Peters rightly points out that people crave meaning in their lives, and a company that can provide its employees meaning will motivate them to work harder. (For more, see this post.)
But Peters also recognizes the danger and downside of this dynamic for individual employees. “So strong is the need for meaning in fact that most people will yield a fair degree of latitude or freedom to institutions that give it to them.” He goes on to argue that the unscrupulous will use the drive for meaning as a means to exert power for its own sake.[i]
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that everyone in company management abuses their power and is only in it for the money. And I’m also not arguing that everyone else is caught up in the company mystique. But at the same time, we cannot pretend that those dynamics don’t exist.
Learning to recognize the motivations of the people you work with will be covered in the next chapter in great detail.
[i] In Search Of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies. Thomas J Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. Harper and Row (1982) p 77-78