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Sunday, 5 June 2016

Democracy or Meritocracy? It All Depends On What You are Leading!

I feel another rant coming on.  I don’t know if you feel the same but I am finding the atmosphere around the Brexit/Bremain controversy increasingly confrontational and less and less of value for the uncommitted voter at least mainly because both sides are deliberately confusing the electorate with opinions disguised as facts.

Worse, they are peering into the future as if they knew what was going to happen.  That most respected economics sage, Vistage UK speaker Roger Martin-Fagg says that all forecasts and predictions on whatever subject and by anyone have two potential results:

       They are either lucky or wrong.

Of course there is little that we can do about it until June 23rd when we can enter the cross on the voting paper and hope that we will be spared more controversy for a while.   It is called democracy in action – the whole of the UK electorate expressing their views on the matter in hand.

On another though relevant subject there has been much angst recently following a report by experts (or as Kenneth and William Hopper call them in their brilliant book, The Puritan Gift “so-called experts”) as to the potential effects of the rampant Zika virus during the forthcoming Olympics in Rio.

In essence the “expert” opined that the Games should be postponed, moved or abandoned t0 prevent the spread of the virus into currently unaffected countries.

I was intrigued and not a little irritated by a comment from yet another so-called expert that as the World Health Organization, the public health arm of the United Nations was “not democratically elected” its conclusions and opinions should be ignored.  Really?  Was he being serious?

If it is to be “democratically elected” then what is the electorate?  Is it everyone in the world?  Such crass stupidity does little to encourage anyone to listen to these people.

I am a committed democrat even though Winston Churchill described democracy as the “least worst option”.  Democratic methods are rightly used to elect our representatives to local councils, Police and Crime Commissioners (in the UK), members of the European Parliament and above all, Members of the UK Parliament.

That having been said however, the executive branch is first elected through the majority of MPs from one party and then the Government is appointed by the Prime Minister and therefore not democratically.

In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln described democracy as “the Government of the people, by the people, for the people” and that description has not been bettered.

However we must accept that democratically elected Governments are not automatically perfect.  For example, and we don’t need to expand on it, the populace democratically elected Hitler and the Nazis.

What, then, has this to do with business and more to the point, leadership in business?

We have yet to see democratically elected leaders of businesses apart from perhaps in the case of some exceptions like co-operatives.  In the main they are self-starters, have come up through the ranks or have been appointed from outside the business.

In each case they are there because of demonstrated or potential performance and the ability to drive the business to growth and success.

The method, meritocracy, could almost be termed “undemocratically selected” and it seems to work pretty well.

Those who do not meet the expectations of all the stakeholders generally get pretty short shrift and rightly so.  They have the lives and careers of the employees in their hands and that is a mighty responsibility.

Fortunately we generally take care in selecting our business leaders, judging them on demonstrated ability, past performance and overall would they be a good fit in the business.

There is no better or worse option.  Democracy only works where there is a logical electorate and if there isn’t one, undemocratic selection is a working alternative.

It starts with either talent spotting potential leasers already in the business or by good recruitment techniques that emphasise attitude rather than skills and experience.

Rant over, I feel better now, thank you!

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