There are four words that describe the nature of why we cannot get along. They are basic to the conflicts in the classroom, the playground, councils and board rooms. They describe the root cause of disputes between nations and political persuasions.
These four words are: “Who’s in charge here?” (Granted, they might have been five words without the contraction.)
Whether it is the world stage or the local social club, the issues are most often power issues. Who will make the decisions? Who will determine direction? Who gets the glory?
I once lived in a small town where there was a good deal of tension. As we tried to figure out the source of that discord, it appeared that several people wanted to be in control of the town. However, being king of that community was not exactly like having a controlling interest in the British Empire. Struggling to be in charge was not worth the campaign.
It did not matter.
It never does.
The size of the office, the group or the club never makes a difference. What is important is who is important. It is not what is done, but who has the right to do it. These are places where the bullies flourish. And even though the peacemakers are blessed, they often get martyred on the field of battle.
Do you want some examples? I am glad you asked.
Name a congressional committee and you can see this at work. Almost every individual is jockeying for the most favored position. It happens in most political circles.
Lobbyists elbow political reporters for access to power. In those circles, there is a pecking order in which everyone plays chicken.
Let us scale this down and make it closer to home. Why do some families fight all the time over seemingly unimportant issues? It might be that each member wants to win. The problem with winning is that it means there will be a loser. In families, if there is a winner, everyone loses.
Losers often resent winners, and resentment is a carbuncle on any relationship. It is not that we should not want to win. It is that we should wish to negotiate so that no one feels like they have lost something important.
It often happens that in groups, there is someone who wants to be the pack’s alpha dog. Say the group is a social club and someone really wants to be president. When elected, that person often sees it as a result of popularity and influence. It might be that no one else wants the job, or that everyone just wants out of the way. If the president starts lording it over the others, he or she might find that no one is following.
The best leaders are servants. The worst ones are despots and dictators. Most of us will follow a despot out of fear, but rarely out of respect. When we find a servant leader, we will easily follow.
Someone has to be in charge of a group. There can be little progress without leadership. It is only, however, when the group members stop jockeying for the top spot that progress will be made.
On many boards or committees, there is a person who wants to determine the outcome of almost everything. We know them. They talk louder. They use loaded words. They are the first to jump in.
They scowl and wrinkle their brows and threaten this or that. Then, when they get their way, they assume it is because people like them and believe their arguments.
On those same boards and committees, there is the person with the real power. That person often waits to speak out. When he or she does, it’s brief. Others on the board listen out of respect, not out of fear. Those folks often do not talk much, but when they do, the group gives each word special meaning.
When it is all over, the people assembled weigh substance and wind. They then make up their minds.
The people who are really in charge are often those who do not care about being in charge. They are those who care about the best outcome for the group.
Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.