Taking Steps Toward Leadership–the Fixer

So far, we have dealt with the leader who craves praise and attention, and we’ve studied the leader that demands more and more power.  Today we will discuss the leader that leads because he or she can FIX EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG.

Is that dangerous?  It doesn’t sound like it is.  Wanting to make things better for the organization and its members shouldn’t be a bad thing.  Unless…

There is a line in the Incredibles that Bob says early in the movie.  “Sometimes you wish that the world will just stay saved.  The Fixer believes with all his heart and mind that once something gets fixed, it stays fixed.  All you have to do is do it their way from now until forever and everything will be just fine.  The shortcoming of this type of thinking is that situations are fluid and people react differently to the change.  Believe it or not, some people will not like the changes that the fixer makes.  The ones most likely to openly reject the changes will be other fixers!

Let’s take a look at a fixer on a small scale.  Mom as the fixer sees that child #1 likes a clean room and playing quietly with his trucks.  Child #2, however, runs around the living room knocking over things and yelling like a banshee.  Obviously, child #2 needs to be fixed.  She tries punishment.  Child #2 gets louder.  She tries behavior modification.  “If you sit quietly with your toys and books, I’ll give you this piece of candy.”  Soon, the candy doesn’t compensate for the boredom the child feels and he rejects the bargain.  What is wrong with this child?!  Nothing, probably, is wrong with the child.  He’s just different from child #1.  But he needs to get fixed. (Well, no he doesn’t.  He’s just fine.) Mom takes him to the psychologist who prescribes a medicine that will allow the child to focus better.  Now he acts just like child #1.  Is the child fixed?

How about looking at a larger scale.  You’re a leader of a Boy Scout troop.  It is your intention that your boy should get an Eagle Badge.  It is also good for the troop to produce lots of Eagle Badge earners.  You therefore design all the activities in the troop to get as many requirements done as possible.  Not all of the boys will invest the amount of time or effort needed to actually earn the badges however.  This is always the case because not all boys in Boy Scout troops have the same goals, the same work ethic, the same background, or the same desire to become an Eagle Scout.  Nevertheless, you feel it your duty to promote the activities that advance all the scouts to Eagle level and on your time schedule.  Instead of individual projects for each badge, you institute group projects, and regardless of the degree of involvement, everyone present for the project gets the badge.  Your son, who actually wants the badge, goes above and beyond to earn the badge for himself.  You make it easy on the rest of the members by letting them achieve the same reward for 1/3 of the effort.  Is the troop fixed?  How does that affect your son?

You can see this type of leadership in many places: the girlfriend that fixes the boyfriend, the teacher that fixes the class, the manager that fixes the department, the HR manager that fixes the company, or the politician that fixes the country.  The intent is good, but the application fails because it must conform to the leader’s vision and ideals.  If the leader’s vision and ideals are short sighted or not thought out completely, they can have disastrous consequences.  The conceit is that it is possible for one person to fix a person or a system in such a way that it no longer needs tweaking.  The idee fixe  in the mind of the leader is that only he or she can fix the problem and it’s obvious that no one else can, or there wouldn’t be a problem now.  Therein lies the problem.  The larger the system or group that needs “fixing” the more people it takes and the bigger the vision has to be.  You would need a computer to test out the consequences of every change.  That would be like finding THE formula for predicting the stock market.  If you have one or two measurements that correlate to the movement of the market, you have a pretty useful tool, but it won’t be accurate.  What do you need?  More measurements!  Now you have 14 or 15 measurements which, when combined, give a pretty accurate model of the past behavior of the market. It fits nearly perfectly to the graph!  The predictive value, however, has such a wide margin of error because of the many different scenarios possible for each measurement that it renders the model useless.

I don’t want to make this political but just to bring up a point.  Our current leader wants to Make America Great Again.  Now this is assuming that America was great at one point and we want to return to that situation.  All we need to do is to peruse the archives of history and find that period when America was Great.  But wait!  We’d have to define what we meant by Great wouldn’t we?  Well, we still are big and powerful.  We have excellent technology and a fairly high standard of living.  We have an adequate educational system.  We can be self sustaining.  When in history have we been bigger?  When have we been more powerful and had low unemployment and a great economy and first rate international relations?  When have we commanded the respect of the rest of the world?  When have we done any of those things AT THE SAME TIME?  The time when the US experienced the lowest unemployment was during WWI and WWII, the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, etc.  Why?  because we sent our workers over seas.  Well that doesn’t sound so great!  The Gross Domestic Product has never been higher than it is now. Does that make us great?  15% of our population lives below the poverty line.  Is that something we need to fix?  So the US has always been powerful and influential globally.  There was no one time where it was perfectly in tune in every area, so that goal to Make America Great Again is facetious.  No one person or even one party can alleviate all the problems of a country in 4 years or 8 years or 20 years, because as one problem gets “fixed” another one arises.

So that brings me to a final point.  You’re not going to like it.  What if you have a Classic Narcissist that Seeks Power for power’s sake and believes he is the Only one to Fix things and Make America Great again?  Have no fear.

  1. He cannot survive the constant monitoring of the press because any great thing he does will be countered when they catch him doing something stupid.
  2. He cannot abscond with enough power to render him invincible to members of the opposing party, the press, his own party and those constituents who feel a need to make their thoughts known.
  3. He, alone, can only recommend changes that would “fix” the US, and without judicial and congressional approval cannot implement any changes that would significantly affect anyone.  Executive orders can be overturned.  Bills can die in committee.  Proclamations can be countered by the press and the judiciary.

Our leader will not get the praise and adulation he craves, nor will he be able to amass more power as the leader of our country than he had as the leader of his corporation.  He, in fact, will have less power because of the checks and balances established by the constitution.  And he will be unable to fix anything of consequence by himself.  Anything that would require massive changes in policy and a vote by our representatives would be modified by those who would render the changes toothless.  Do not Panic.  Just put on your peril sensitive glasses and you’ll be fine.

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