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Everyone wants to be the boss, the guy in charge, the big man. Even if we don't want the job we all like to think that if we had it, we would do a far better job of running whatever needs to be run than the guy who is currently doing it, and if we were running the show, things would be a whole lot better all around, or at the very least, for ourselves.
Power is something to which I have never aspired. The way I look at it, I have enough trouble being competently in charge of myself, much less anyone or anything else. I didn't even like being the boss of my kids when I was raising them. It was my theory that we were all sailing on the same boat and if we all did what we needed to and held up our end of the sails we would probably make it into port safe and sound. I was all about cooperation as the key to peaceful and productive coexistence. It may be possible that I am also a born chump, but what can you do? My kids turned out just fine, possibly by accident, but it worked for us.
Not wanting to be in charge doesn't mean that I can't take charged if called upon to do so. There are instances in life that demand that someone take control of things or there will be unpleasant consequences, and in those kind of situations I will step forward if no one else can or will or everyone else steps backwards and I have no choice because I was too dumb to see it coming. Even then, I will only do it if I think I have some kind of experience or expertise that somehow makes me the necessary person for the job. Frankly, I just don't want the responsibility. There is a famous line in the Spiderman stories where his uncle says to him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The first time I read it as a kid I thought, no kidding, that's why I don't want it. When I was young I didn't even want to be the blackboard monitor.
There have been plenty of times that I have thought that the person in charge was probably a self-serving idiot with an out of control ego who was managing to do just about everything wrong, but that never meant that I was taking a number and standing in line to take over the job. It isn't a matter of a lack of self-confidence, I've got plenty of that, and it isn't that I don't think that I could do a better job, I probably could. I just don't want to. Frankly, who needs the accompanying headaches? Stress is a killer.
When I was in the army I worked under an officer who possessed all those natural leadership qualities we have come to respect and admire. He once told me that true leadership is not qualified by rank or position, but that it is something undefinable and elusive that one either had or not, and if one did, it would come to the fore no matter what the circumstances. He used to say that if Alexander the Great hadn't been a born leader being king would not have helped him conquer the known world and if people want to follow you, they are going to do it in some fashion whether or not you are sitting on a throne or pushing a broom. When he gave me this little speech he was foisting some leadership position on me that I was loath to take on and he was trying to inspire me. It was a good speech and I admired and respected him, but I still didn't want to do it. My attitude puzzled him. Wouldn't anyone jump at the chance to take the helm, carry the flag, lead the troops into glorious battle? Not me, anyway. The problem is, I can always see the inherent down side of being in charge. There may be one or two people who don't care, a couple who think you worthy, and a few who are willing to wait and see how it turns out, but human beings being what they are, there are usually more who think you are a loser and they could do a much better job. These are the people who tend to be uncooperative and difficult. Did I mention how much I like cooperation? You see the problem. Can I give orders and expect them to be obeyed? You betcha, like a Sergeant Major on a parade field, baby. I have a command voice that carries like an opera diva in a giant theater. I can organize people, give direction, delegate duties, and make everybody hop to it, and I will if I have to, I just don't want to. My problem is, no one wants to believe me. Or, they think that given some kind of natural talent for it, I ought to want to. It seems ridiculous to them that I don't. I mean, what if Michael Jordan had hated basketball and wanted to be a hedge fund manager, or Rembrandt thought painting was boring and wanted to be a turnip farmer? Would that make any sense to anyone? I'm no Michael Jordan or Rembrandt by a long shot, but people are always rather incredulous if you deny wanting to do something they think you are naturally inclined to do.
That's OK. In my mind, the only people who get power thrust upon them are the ones who don't know how to thrust it right back. Personally, I think it is works just as well to smile, look confused, and hold the line.
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