Leadership and Prometheus

Leadership training is not emphasized in colleges and universities today. We have wonderful personal and career mentors but no mentoring when it comes to leadership. I guess this has to do with the political forces dominating colleges today. We are more interested in the promise of status and money earned than anything of leadership impact that may come our graduates. We do not want them to change the world, we just want to change them. Trying to change someone is akin to indoctrination.

To explain, consider that there are three types of education. The first is an employee education, which teaches you what to think. Anyone taught how-to skills is one who has received an employee education. There is nothing evil about this. It’s just what it is. Next is the expert or professional education, the one obtained by doctors, lawyers, and yes professors. An expert education teaches you when to think. Just a step above the employee, an expert is filled with highly detailed information and is taught when to use this expert knowledge. I would like to note that Greek and Roman civilizations fell because they created too many experts. The last educational model is a leadership education, which teaches you how to think. The problem with this last model is that it is hostile to quantifiable market forces. We can quantify skill ability and expert knowledge, but we can’t quantify leadership talent.

Learning how to think requires a lot more freedom than colleges are willing to allow. It requires more direct mentorship on the part of the educator and even double the effort on the part of the student. Currently we emphasize no leadership education in colleges today and what follows is more of the same that is out there, more leaders who reject quality simply because they do not know what it is. Let me explain.

For a long time I used to think great leaders had great world views. I was only partially correct. Great leaders are those with a dynamic World View founded on a unique quality as their Point of View. For example, imagine a pyramid with five levels. At the top is power. Next is money, after that status, after that impact and finally at the bottom rests quality. Most leaders today seek for status or power and even money without first obtaining quality. The result is an inverted pyramid, the most unstable thing you could imagine. Power, money, status and even impact are all neutral. They can exist for good or bad. Quality, on the other hand, is not neutral. It either is or is not quality. Without quality as the fundamental Point of View guiding a leader’s World View, leadership becomes everything but quality.

And so what is quality? It is based on one simple principle, that every human being should be given the freedom to fulfill the full measure of their existence. Quality cannot surface if we are are not free.

I have found that leadership today advances others to the level of incompetence in order to put strain on them to quit. The real goal is to protect power by placing others less threatening into advanced positions. While placed out of site, something else is happening that we rarely discuss. As we advance competence to the level of incompetence, we are also lowering highly competent people to incompetence. In both directions we redirect leadership strengths into positions of incompetence. The Peter Principle rises people to the level of their incompetence. The Prometheus Principle does the opposite, it lowers people with conceptual and solution driven abilities to their level of incompetence, people who add great value are suddenly put into back room jobs all because certain powers and do not allow for their natural quality to compete.

This is what happened to Prometheus, he was a Greek god who gave art and literature to man and then he was punished for it in chains. When you see people removed from their talent and placed into positions of Peter or Prometheus incompetence, you know what kind of leader did this: a leader with no quality, or as we should say, a leader that does not believe every human being should fulfill the measure of their life’s purpose.

Great leaders hire those more talented than themselves, they give freedom as Prometheus gave the humanities to humanity. Poor leaders do just the opposite. If you are driven by quality, you are a threat to those without this point of view. The only place for you is the private sector. Take a moment and look at the difference between public and private innovations. The lack of quality in the former is now clear.

We hear that politics is everywhere, but what we do not hear is that it has changed. Due to media images that make or break a person or business, and due to the creation of political power centers in bureaucratic hierarchies, quality has lost its footing. Just look at those in power. Look at your politicians, college presidents, CEO’s, and many other leaders, especially mid level controllers. They are often in power because they have either won the favor of status through image control or the same power/status through committee protectionism.

You can measure leaders by the impacts that follow from their point of view, and in order to see this you must first get an education in leadership for yourself, something akin to a liberal arts education with massive dialogue and discussion, unfettered by quantifiable measures. The saddest thing of all is that most students today do not know what they are missing in their education, and even worse is an expert educator who does not know how to mentor future leaders.

Keith R. Kelsch