Analytical 8: Authority

16 December, 2016


When asked at a self improvement course what Authority meant, the answer they got wasn’t what they bargained for.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network to support our shows including this one. over to our Patreon page and for other great shows visit today. During a recent employee "know yourself" company thing, I don't know how else to describe it, it was one of those things they said "go along to this and you will learn something about yourself". Well, I mean they were obviously very optimistic, but you never know, some people might get more out of it than others. And that's fine, I guess some people are more connected with themselves than other people. But in any case, you know, got to go. They say you go, so you go. Okay. Keep an open mind. Just, you know, see what you get out of it. Right. Okay. And it was, it was interesting. There was a handful of things I did actually get out of it, which is, you know, I guess that's a good thing from a business point of view. It wasn't a waste of time because I did get something out of it because one of the things that we were asked to reflect upon was how we felt about authority. You know, and by that, I mean how we reacted to other people that had authority and our perceptions of how other people reacted to us when we had authority. Now, unfortunately, I was paired with someone that, well, didn't really know me, and I apologise again to him because, well, you know, It's me. Anyway, if we can all collectively agree that in order to survive, no one individual can truly stand alone in the long term, if we can agree that, because in human history, we've learned, and I think it's safe to say sometimes very painfully, that people survive better in groups than they do by themselves. It's certainly possible to be a hermit, to live by yourself, to be self-sufficient and not have to depend on other people. And that has certain advantages. But the truth is that if you're attacked, you stand alone. And I think that from that point of view, there is safety in numbers and people survive better in groups than they do individually. So, if that's true and there is safety and strength in numbers, the next problem you'll face then with a group is driving consensus and getting agreement. Because we're all individuals, we can all think for ourselves. So, how do you get the group to then make a decision that everyone agrees with? So, if we accept the next point, which is no one individual will accept every single decision that another person would make for all of time. So, at some point, every person will disagree with another person because we are all individuals And even the most inspirational speaker cannot convince 100% of the audience to do what they suggest that they should do It's not possible. Statistically, in the long term, it cannot happen So, how do you deal with dissenting, with the dissenting percentage of the population in your group? How do you deal with that? I mean, you know, there's threats, of course, you could threaten them say, if you don't agree with me, I will, you know, cause you some measure of minor frustration or worse. You could or you could shame, shaming by others might work, you know. Well, everyone else in the group agrees, a bit of peer pressure, nudge, nudge. How come you don't kind of thing? But neither of those are very good because they kind of breed animosity and that animosity could sometimes lead to a full uprising and a rebellion in the long term. So, they're really not the best option. So, your next best option is to establish some kind of an authority. You could democratically elect a leader with a fair vote, that's to say, when I say fair, it's not rigged, you know, and let that elected leader have the final say in decisions wherever there is a disagreement and you can't reach a harmonious decision. Of course, you could elect the government to do the same thing. That also could could potentially work and give the government that authority to have the final say. So, even if an individual does disagree with the leader or the government, at least that they can respect that they were elected democratically, fairly, justly. they had an opportunity to vote for someone else, to choose someone else, but the majority had to rule, then they're far more likely to respect that individual's authority when a decision comes down that they don't agree with. They will respect their authority. Respect my authority. Like Cartman. But what happens organisationally or perhaps more of a micro scale where an individual selected to lead and given authority, but there was no vote. It's not so strange. In fact, it's quite common. Maybe these people were employed by a higher level or a peer level manager. And frankly, that's generally is how it works. Managers aren't hired by the people that work for them. They're hired by other people that are either above them or on the same level. In that case, would you respect that person's authority because you were just told they're the boss, they have the final say? Because you didn't vote for this person. Who says they have any authority? What makes them special? I've always found that people with authority in an organisation that I'm happy to follow and not challenge, are those that take the time to explain why they make the decisions that they do and/or are inspirational in some way. I do personally struggle sometimes, I have trouble respecting the authority of others that are ordained, as it were, through some kind of non-performance metric or non-democratic means or by some criteria that's unclear or it's just unknown. You know, you wonder how some people get jobs in authority. I don't know all of the details and I'm sure there are good reasons. But in any case, conversely, I have the same problem reflected back onto myself insofar as I feel like others don't respect authority if I am given it, because I feel like I haven't earned it. You know, it's because it's funny, you know, because people, There are some people that I know that just hate authority figures, no matter how inspirational they are, no matter how convincing they are, no matter how intelligent, methodical, how good they are at what they do It does not matter, they simply hate authority figures That's it And I feel like the most popular authority figures in all of human history did not lead with an iron fist or through enforcement, they led through the hearts and minds and by inspiring the people that would follow them Those people would follow them by choice, not because they had authority Because I feel like leadership is what it really is supposed to be about You're leading the group to success, you lead your friends You lead your family, you lead your group, your team at work. You know, it's not really about authority because authority is a concept that is really not the same thing at all as leadership, because leadership to me is about inspiration. And when I say inspiration, I don't mean being able to draw something like Picasso or Van Gogh or like an artistic inspiration. I mean, convincing other people to see the advantages of going a certain direction. And to having them willingly choose to follow you in that direction. That's the sort of inspiration that I mean. And authority, that's all that's sort of left on the table when that inspiration fails. It's the backstop, it's the last resort It's what you do when you can't inspire or some that simply refuse to be inspired or interested I'll always try to inspire people I'm not always going to succeed And that's OK But I'll always hate it when I have to fall back on authority it feels wrong. It feels like I've lost. It feels like I haven't. So that's my definition of not succeeding as a leader, is if I have to fall back on authority. And I'll go back to that poor guy that was paired with me during the authority discussion. I don't think he knew what hit him. If you're enjoying Analytical and you want to support the show, you can, like one of our backers, Chris Stone. He and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. So, if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyse something. I'm John Cheeji. Thanks for listening. (upbeat music) [Music]
Duration 10 minutes and 51 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.