Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The violence of rulership

Leye - Every other Wednesday 

Photo by Danny Choo

There is a great evil I see in the world; people wanting to rule over other people.

Let us stop and think about this for a bit. Stop every other thought and think only of this one question: Why do people need to have rulers?

I have performed this thought experiment myself and I have come up with the usual excuses:
  1. Some people need direction
  2. Everyone cannot be the leader
  3. It is the natural order of things
  4. People need to be told what to do
  5. Some people are more experienced than others
  6. Some people are wiser than others
  7. Some people are stronger than others
  8. Some people are better than others
  9. People like to be led
  10. People want to be led
  11. People need to be led
At the centre of all these and a million similar explanations is the singular assumption that people are stupid. 
People are stupid and so have to be told what to do. People are stupid and cannot made the right decisions. People are stupid and unable to see the big picture. People are stupid and as such cannot adequately grasp the meaning of things. People are stupid. 

I think no.

I think people are people: equipped, capable, and intelligent. I think people become less intelligent in the presence of another person wielding the authority of rulership over them. 

This pervasive evil has made the workplace a violent environment. Mangers inflicting their help, their thoughts, their ideas, their will, their management, on their subordinates. Bosses bossing people around who in turn boss other people around till in the end, so mush bossing is going on and so little work actually gets done. I say get rid of all managers. 

I am not alone in this madness; experts of agile software development continuously call for the eradication of managers. People are best at managing themselves; managers lengthen the lines of communications at best, and destroy the people able and willing to do real work at worst. Management is simply a curse. So why do businesses still insist on hiring one person to think for, coordinate, direct, rebuke, reward and punish a team of fully functional other people?

I am always suspicious of people who wish to rule; of those who seek positions of power and influence over others. Why do people need to be led? People don't need to be led, people can get on well if they are just allowed to get on with it. This we have found in agile software delivery, especially in scrum teams (I won't bore you with this). Now, back to the evil of wanting to rule, to lead, or to manage: is it right for any person to have power over other people? You can have a natural duty of care, as in a parent caring for a child, but when it comes to the workplace, is it right, natural, or even beneficial to make some people the bosses of other people?

I propose no answers; I only ask questions. I only ask that we think about this one question: Why do people need rulers?

And if you feel like reading something totally unrelated, here is a story a wrote a while back titled Those who wish to rule.


  1. Without a ruler, how would I now how long was my manhood...?

    1. EvKa, do you want the short answer?

    2. Jeff, only if you speak from personal experience. Otherwise, I'd rather have my balloon burst by a pin prick.

  2. Leye, I had a comment to put here about the two books I have written to help employees liberate themselves from the sort of management you abhor.
    But I took a detour to read your genius story, and now I can only say how much I wish it were true. I wish there were something that could make the worst of those people weep.

    1. I would love the link to the two books, please.

  3. I think the one absolute disqualification to being a ruler is to want to do it!

    1. Michael, I can see why you would think that when looking at the world stage, especially these days. But I loved being a manger and teaching people to do it well. And there was period--early 70s until early 90s, when some major companies devoted themselves to changing their cultures to a new philosophy championed by consultants of my generation. This was our philosophy, and it worked beautifully in the places where it was really instituted:
      A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. Lao Tzu

      Until the age of GREED destroyed the experiment.

    2. I take your point! Indeed, I used the word 'ruler' deliberately.

    3. YES! The more I think of it, the more I come to this answer. Yes, yes, yes, yes!

  4. People need leaders and leadership, but not autocrats, authoritarians or dictators.
    Winning people by persuasion, reasoning and enlightenment is far superior than to do so by edict, order or force.

  5. My only question is, who shall lead the ruled away from being ruled?