I apologize that this weekly newsletter may have a slightly irritated and angry tone. The fact is that I am both angry and disappointed, so this is reflected in the text as well. This week’s letter was also a bit longer than usual, but there was so much emotion…
At the time of writing, it is one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. According to some estimates I have seen, more than 200,000 people have died so far. Both Russians and Ukrainians. Civilians as soldiers.
Think about this figure, it is incredibly high. Imagine the number of people around who are also directly affected by the killing of these people. There are millions of people who are in personal grief.
One in 10 billion
All because one man has decided that there should be a war. And this is where my anger really comes to life.
Russia has a dictator, one who dictates the rules and then others must obey and implement. The man in question has eliminated any threat to him for many years, so he can sit there and decide based on his own illusions.
The man, like similar men in our history, has created a nucleus of people around him and a culture that allows him to have unlimited power.
Now that the Russians are thankfully not doing well in the war against Ukraine, one would think that it would be appropriate to withdraw their forces so as not to sacrifice more of them. But it is not possible, because it would not look good to give in and admit failure.
But it is not out of concern for the Russian people or the Russian nation. No, this is all in the head of a man. He is the one who can’t imagine going back home because it would hurt his ego, with a self-image of being a fighter, a great leader, the new tsar.
It’s just that it’s not him who risks bleeding and pain, but his soldiers who are recruited and conscripted primarily from the eastern districts of the country. Far from Moscow and the families of the closest followers. It is a long way from the pain to the “great leader”.
The ‘great leader’ can move around safely in beautiful palaces, drink champagne and eat his fill every day. At the same time, soldiers and civilians are trampling in the mud, freezing, scared, suffering, and dying.
I hear on the radio that if he just disappeared, the war could end today, there would be a situation where you could end the war and withdraw your forces and blame the mad dictator.
That one man can declare this disaster a “special military operation” and keep it going, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous suffering, is unbelievable.
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– Lord Acton (British historian in the late 19th century)
Are we no further ahead?
What makes me angry is that this is as far as we have come as humanity. As someone on the radio said the other day, “it’s like the Middle Ages”. And it is.
Humans as animals have not evolved much in that short time, but we have structures in place that would prevent these horrors from happening again. We just need to choose to use them.
What disappoints me is that those of us standing around have allowed this to happen.
- We have plenty of signs over the last 20-30 years that what we are experiencing now could be coming.
- We have allowed the construction of a dictatorship.
- We have not dared, or had the courage, to step forward and say stop.
- We have been more preoccupied with our own lives in the short term, rather than seeing that in the long term it would be better to act sooner on our own initiative, rather than being forced to act later. The stage that is here now.
There are many similarities between how we allowed another dictator to set the world on fire 90 years ago. We did not dare, we did not say anything, we did not act, until it was almost too late. The price was high then, and the price is and can be even higher now.
Even in our everyday life
What also upsets me is that I see these tendencies in some businesses as well. These are the same mechanisms, but on a smaller scale and with less negative consequences. But they are there, and we need to address them.
To solve the big issues, we need to start small. This is where we put the seed of something that can grow.
I see in some organizations where the culture is that you always need to ask the manager. You cannot make your own decisions. You must always wait for your manager’s approval. Everything is so strictly hierarchical where the person at the top is the boss.
There are businesses I have worked with where I have noticed this. It may be that the manager leaves or is away for a longer period, because the whole organization has frozen, solidified, stood still, waiting for a new manager to arrive, or for the existing one to return.
You are so dependent on your boss always being there to say this or that. Based on that, you have then done what the manager said, without questioning.
Abandoning personal responsibility
In an interview from Moscow, a young woman, when asked what she thought of the “special military operation”, said “I don’t know, we have a president and he knows what needs to be done”.
In one organization I worked with, one employee said “we have to wait and see what the boss decides” on a very simple issue.
Both people have abdicated their own responsibility for a situation. You have been brought up in a culture where, as a “low-ranking” person in the hierarchy, you are not supposed to make decisions, but only to perform. You do not have or assume the authority to do anything.
There are ways
I and we at Clean Stream work so much on building the focus on an organization’s value-creating flow, where the purpose is clear and clear about what to achieve. If you know this purpose, then the employees themselves can make decisions and jointly manage, lead and carry out the work.
This is where self-managing teams and learning organizations come in.
These two concepts are completely foreign to many strictly hierarchical organizations. This is also the case in Russia. There, such thoughts are seen as weakness.
Who sees it as weakness? The great leader of course, and then everyone else should see it that way too. All because it is a threat to the dictator and the immediate circle around him. Those who get to share in the benefits to keep everyone else below them unfree.
The truth is that, on the contrary, there is strength in these concepts.
To work in a business with self-managing teams and a learning organization, where one’s value-creating flows are clear and where the purpose is clear, is to be free as a human being in your professional roles.
To be free:
- it is to be allowed to think the big and new thoughts,
- to be able to question our actions and to change them,
- to have both the responsibility and the authority to manage your life, at work and at home,
- and that should be the right of every human being.
Dictators, like in Russia or China, make people unfree. A dictator can order others to die in his place. Sacrificing themselves so that the great leader can maintain his power, his ego and appear strong and decisive.
These dictators, big and small, exist because the rest of us allow them to exist. It makes me angry and disappointed, because it is part of the past.
We have ways to get away from it; both mindsets and techniques. I will continue to use these and fight for their adoption.
How do you feel? Are you with me?
Concerned about your future opportunities and those of all of us,