Faux Leaders, False Prophets and Insouciant Worker Bees

By | May 1, 2016

A few rotten chili peppers?

Chili peppers

Red hot chili peppers. © omygdala.com

On January 07 2009, the chairman of Satyam Computers, confessed to accounting fraud and resigned from the company. He confessed to falsifying accounts, inflating profit and revenues. The Satyam scandal was India’s Enron. Unlike Enron, the exact number of people who lost their jobs due to the scandal is unclear. However, were it not for Tech Mahindra, which acquired the company, 40,000 employees 1 of the company could have been in rough waters. What kind of a corporate leader can hoodwink his employees for his self-serving purpose? A faux leader, perhaps?

On November 18, 1978, 909 followers of a church, called the People’s Temple, committed mass suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with tranquilizers, cyanide and sedatives. The church was located in “Jonestown“, Guyana, and was founded by Rev. James Warren Jones. Among the dead were 276 children. Although many members drank the poisonous drink willingly, some were forced to consume the concoction at gunpoint by Jones’ aides. All the deaths occurred under the order of Rev. Jim Jones, who subsequently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. What kind of a self-proclaimed god-man forces his followers and their kids to commit suicide, and terms it as an act of ultimate sacrifice to preserve their commune? A false prophet, perhaps?

Does anybody remember a person named Saloth Sar? His demented vision to create a utopian farming society by forcibly moving people from urban areas to rural countryside to work in collective farms was responsible for the death of close to 3 million (30 lakh) people—approximately one-fourth of a country’s population. Saloth Sar was otherwise known as Pol Pot, the Butcher of Cambodia. Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge and practiced totalitarian dictatorship while serving as the prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea. He has already logged his name in the history books as one of the worst mass murderers of the 20th century. What kind of a leader enjoys killing his people in cold blood just to satisfy his bombastic vision or his sadistic desires? A psychopathic leader, perhaps?

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”—Lord Acton

If there is one common theme that emerges from the above three paragraphs, then it is this—the corporate world and the world of religion and politics seem to have at least one thing in common, one person controls the many… well, actually, actions, commands, dictates, and edicts of one person controls the many.

  • The strategies, directives and actions of an incompetent CEO will control the lives of everybody beneath him.
  • The dictates and edicts of the original prophets, interpreted incorrectly and propagated by the false prophets, will corral the masses into euphoria, holy wars and mass killings.
  • The faux leader of a political entity can whip up the frenzy of his loyal sycophantic base and through the “tyranny of the majority” exterminate the opposition, take the country to war, raid the State’s treasury to pursue his/her personal “projects” or indulge in genocide in pursuit of his/her demented vision.
A wooden mask

Many people wear a “mask” to hide their real identity. Sociopaths do it the best. © omygdala.com

How many nations have been led to war by a megalomaniacal leader? How many people have been massacred by political leaders wedded to a particular ideology? How many lives have been annihilated by prophets, suffering from delusions of grandeur and claiming to pursue the God’s will? How many careers have been destroyed by psychopathic leaders at the helm of affairs? Are we governed, ruled and led by sociopaths?

Now, some readers may feel that I am making a fallacious argument by being selective, ignoring good leaders and picking up a few rotten apples, and extrapolating that data to cast aspersions on all leaders or prophets. No, that’s not my intention. I am not arguing that the world is bereft of great leaders or prophets—there were, there are, and there will be exceptional leaders and transcendental prophets. My point is that the world is also full of people who claim to be leaders, but are faux leaders or, worse, no leader at all. Throughout history many powerful leaders who wielded absolute authority have used that authority to betray, manipulate, lie to and hoodwink the masses, to further their selfish agendas. And since these incidents have occurred with certain regularity, I have started to wonder, how many leaders—business, political and otherwise—are masking their true identity? My argument is that, it seems, there are many sociopaths in leadership roles worldwide, and, secondly, what takes years to build can be destroyed in mere days by faux leaders or false prophets. Human history is replete with examples of destruction being wrought by megalomaniacs. There is no denying that, which brings me to the most important question. How do we, then, as the most intelligent being in the animal kingdom get enamored by the false charm of these evil people, foist them on a pedestal and legitimize their actions? What makes us trust them when they betray us quite regularly and quite often? Is there something wrong with a large section of the human race? Are we hardwired for self-destruction? Do we have a gullibility gene? Can we be seduced so easily by manipulators who know which levers to pull?

The answer, to me, lies within; we need to realize and understand that our fears, insecurities, wants, needs, greed, and our foibles are easily exploited by the agents of subterfuge. Mark Twain had mentioned—“it is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” And that to me is how many (wo)men operate—by fooling us.

There is always more goodness in the world than there appears to be, because goodness is of its very nature modest and retiring.”—Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Let’s do a simple experiment. Refer to the table below and answer both questions, honestly.

How many of you have worked with/for a manager who has/had some or all of the qualities listed below?

How many of your current or erstwhile managers display/displayed some or all of the character traits listed below?

  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Motivate
  • Lead by example
  • Resolute
  • Confident
  • Inspiring
  • Honest
  • Respectful
  • Empowering
  • Flexible
  • Collaborative
  • Trustworthy
  • Delegating
  • Positive attitude
  • Accountable
  • Sense of humor
  • Approachable
  • Have a vested interest in your growth, development and success
  • Supportive of your career aspiration and goals
  • Stepping forward and taking the blame if something went wrong; stepping back and sharing the accolades when success comes the team’s way
  • Being fair to all; having no favorites
  • Striving for excellence in all
  • Having a vision for the team/organization

These are the traits that most people agree that great leaders have. Is your current manager exhibiting any of these traits? What about your past managers?

  • Lack of empathy
  • Lack of humility; pretentious
  • Lack of integrity
  • Arrogant
  • Dishonest
  • Selfish
  • Micromanage
  • Dismissive
  • Disrespectful
  • Condescending
  • Loudmouth
  • Bully
  • Egotist
  • Abusive
  • Domineering
  • Rigid; not open to ideas
  • Know-it-all
  • Plays favorites
  • Narcissistic; takes all the credit
  • Poor interpersonal skills
  • Poor listening skills
  • Uses fear as a tool for team management
  • Reactive instead of proactive; lack of vision; too slow to change
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Not transparent in dealing
  • Poor communication skills
  • Passes the blame
  • Follows a feudal team structure
  • Makes sexual advances; makes sexist jokes or inappropriate comments
  • Does not give just-in-time feedback; gives feedback in public

These are the traits that most people agree that bad leaders have. Is your current manager exhibiting any of these traits? What about your past managers?

Now, based on the character traits listed above, how many of your managers can be considered a good leader? 1, 2, 5, 10, or is it 0? Consider yourself fortunate if you have worked with/for more good leaders than bad. Based on my unscientific poll, many people spend their entire career working for bad bosses, worse managers and worse leaders.

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”—Anonymous (commonly misattributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Incence sticks

Smoke rising from burning incense sticks. © omygdala.com

Just as the business world has its share of faux leader, the world of religion, too, has more than its share of false prophets or god-men claiming to have an express line to the Divine. The false prophets trot around belching esoteric soundbites, which the ever-exploitable faithful followers scoop up in handful and swallow hook, line, and sinker. Incredibly, all faux prophets have nothing original to say. They are just retweeting what the original prophets had stated and, while standing on the bully pulpit, declaiming that their interpretation of the original tweet is correct, and rest of the tweets from other prophets are incorrect and blasphemous. Furthermore, some of them are notorious for confabulating the truth, distorting facts, stretching reality and misinterpreting the religious books to suit their diabolical agenda. With the advent of mass media, it is very easy for the false prophets to set up shop, proliferate like a virus, and win over gullible masses, who come to them like moths are drawn to fire. Please note that I am not against any religion/organized religion, feel free to practice your faith the way you deem fit, I have no problem with that; however, please refrain from asking me for money, and more money; stop trying to convert me, stop trying to kill me because you think I am a non-believer or an apostate or because your God is bigger than my God, stop cajoling me to come to the house of God on a Monday, Tuesday or a Saturday but not on any other days, stop reprimanding me from eating food of my choice or forcing me into a myriad of other dogmas and regimens you have enticed your followers to adhere to. Live and let live… isn’t that what many holy scriptures espouse?

“Is man merely a mistake of God’s? Or God merely a mistake of man?”—Friedrich Nietzsche

The world’s top five religious groups, in terms of number of adherents, are:

  • Christianity—2.2 billion; 31.50% of the world’s population; Jesus, 1-33 CE (Common Era)
  • Islam—1.6 billion; 22.32% of the world’s population; Muhammad, 570-632 CE
  • Hinduism—1 billion; 13.95% of the world’s population; No real founder, 2000 BCE (Before Common Era)
  • Chinese traditional—394 million; 5.50% of the world’s population; Lao Tse—550-500 BCE; Confucius—551-479 (BCE)
  • Buddhism—376 million; 5.25% of the world’s population; Buddha 563-483 BCE

Taken together, the adherents of the major religious groups constitute, approximately, 80% of the world’s population. Almost all religion believe in a messiah and his second coming in the end times. Even with all the sufferings, wars, conflicts, deaths, and upheavals that we are experiencing, a savior hasn’t returned to slay the devils and the degenerates around us. I wonder why is that so? Has God disowned us? Has he given up on us? Is He peeved at us? What must we do to propitiate the gods to deliver us from evil? If humans are a reflection of God, then, how does it explain our destructive behavior? Did God walk away in disgust after witnessing what his creation is capable of executing in his name? Did he conclude that this experiment of his is a colossal failure? Is that the reason He hasn’t sent another of his son or daughter to help us mend our ways? He must be busy guiding, tutoring, and perfecting Humans 2.0, who are inhabiting another planet in another galaxy. And they must be the ones visiting us, and we are mistaking them for little green men, otherwise known as aliens. 🙂

“Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.”—Jon Stewart

Religion envelops us in its silent embrace almost the moment we are born. We are inducted into the world of religion by our parents. We never have a say. By accident of birth, we all are born into the religion of our parents—we inherit it; then, we live through the bondage of indoctrination in schools and college and, finally, muddle through the serfdom of corporate life. I am never given the choice to choose my religion or my God. It is like vaccination, a few days or weeks after we are born, we are vaccinated. Isn’t there a government-mandated age for drinking, driving, and for having consensual sex; so, why don’t we have an age for choosing my religion? Radical religious beliefs are as dangerous as underage drinking, underage driving and underage sex. Therefore, why is religion forced down our throat at an age when soiling our diapers regularly is a sign of good health. Maybe, just maybe, if we all are given the chance to choose our religion by ascertaining all the facts, then, it is quite possible that many will choose no religion at all. Maybe, many will say I don’t want any part of this and screw all the hatred spewing god-men, who are manipulating us by exploiting our weaknesses, and indulging in various wars and conflicts, to further their sadistic dreams. At least, there is one family in this planet that is allowing their kids to chose their religion when they have grown up. I commend this family for allowing their kids to make that choice themselves. Kudos, to the family for choosing that path. My hats off to you!

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”—Andy Grove.

The corporate world and world of religion operate mostly by instilling fear. Religion through the fear of ending in hell if you do not follow the dictates or the dogmas, and the corporate world through the fear of going through hell if you aren’t an obedient worker bee. The corporate world wraps us in its cold embrace for most of our adult life. As obedient worker bees, many spend most of their life between the grinding stones of work and making ends meet.

Honeybee

A worker bee. © omygdala.com

After having spent close to 20 years within the corridors of the corporate world, I have come to the sad realization that many self-proclaimed corporate leaders or peer-anointed leaders are power-hungry, heartless, egotistical, conniving, psychopathic nutjobs. These faux leaders will pretend to look out for you, your career, and your future, but they are mostly interested in their aggrandizement. If you make the mistake of incurring their wrath, they will trample your dreams, jettison you when you least expect it or scythe your career at will. I have also observed that great leaders are, generally, born during a crisis; effect a change during the ensuing chaos and have a certain proclivity for losing their life somewhere along the way. Very rarely are leaders born or leaders emerge, when people are fat, rich and happy. Very rarely do people clamor for change when the lights are on, foods are on the table, the taps are flowing and the cars are running. We look for a leader only when the bells of crisis and chaos are tolling. That’s when the mood of discontent pervades the air and the call for change sweeps the nation. People forget to prepare for the rainy days when good times abound. We become complacent when everything’s coming up roses, and through our action sow the seeds of failure. We should always be ever vigilant, even when the Sun is shining, to protect the things we value most. Disasters, accidents and temper tantrums of Mother Nature do not come calling.

“When the student is ready the teacher will arrive”—Anonymous 2 

The desire to change lies within, not without; a true leader enables us to realize that fact and helps us to exploit it. Leaders rarely make change happen, individuals do. A leader may come up with a grand vision or a great plan; however, if his/her followers or subjects do not believe in the plan, identify with it, support or accept it, then, the plan is destined to fail right from the get-go. As Robert Burns had said, “the best laid plans of men and mice often go awry.” The desire for change often starts at the grassroots and spreads out; genuine leaders only act as a catalyst for the movement to reach a critical mass. Real leaders can channelize our energy and guide us to the destination, but we have to do all the hard work to reach there. It is a push-pull relationship, not just a pull relationship. No leader can pull us to salvation; we have to travel there ourselves by pushing for the change we believe in and following the leader who is pulling us towards it.

Let me give you an example. On October 2 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) campaign. It is a change initiative to clean the villages and cities of India. Several public figures were selected to move this campaign forward; however, the campaign found hardly any buy-in from the general populace. This is an example of top-down approach for implementing a change initiative, as opposed to a bottom-up process. A top-down approach is mostly autocratic and done by force or by applying pressure. Once the force or the pressure is withdrawn, people will go back to their old ways of doing things. The bottom-up approach, on the other hand, is organic and inclusive: we change and everything changes with us. Hence, it is because of this exact reason—the top-down approach—that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) will probably fail. It will not fail because of a lack of funds or a lack of resources; it will fail because it is a top-down implementation and is not organic—most people couldn’t care less about his initiative, they are not interested in this endeavour, they do not own this initiative nor do they have any desire to take this initiative forward. We will be taxed, projects will be launched, people with the right connection will make a lot of money, but the measurable change will be minimal. This initiative is destined to end up being another boondoggle.

Don’t get me wrong, Clean India Mission is a wonderful initiative; who wouldn’t want clean roads, clean pavements, clean railway stations, clean countryside, etc. Working together, we could have transformed our nation. We had this opportunity to make India clean and make a difference. However, the lackadaisical attitude of my countrymen will make the initiative fail; no matter how hard the government tries to make it successful. Quite predictably, many Indians will take the path of least resistance and willingly or unwillingly sabotage the process by throwing garbage everywhere, littering everywhere, spitting, peeing and pooping everywhere and then blame the government for faulty implementation. Unfortunately, in many cases, we are our worst enemy.

We also need to realize that change is also difficult and often uprooting. Therefore, most, if not all, are unwilling to undertake that journey. Very few people will want to get out of their comfort zone to change for a better tomorrow. The students are not ready, and the teacher hasn’t arrived, yet. Until the insouciant worker bees reboot their thinking and their behavior, they will forever remain under the thumbs of autocrats and be serfs to faux leaders and false prophets.

So, what’s the road ahead? Maintain the status quo, remain indifferent, and be held hostage by faux leaders and false prophets?

Power of the people

If only we knew our true power… Image source

How many of you are sick of all the hatred in the air? How many of you are sick of all the racists, the xenophobes and the hate merchants? How many of you are sick of the faux leader and false prophets. Are you sick of the captured media and the echo-chamber journalists? I know, I am.

Do you realize that all politicians are the same—two sides of the same coin—and there are no differences between political parties? When they debate each other on the idiot box, what they offer you are just soundbites that appeal to your personal biases. I have come to the realization that voting for the lesser of the two evils is still voting for the evil.

Are you realizing that humanity is headed in the wrong direction and your children and your grandchildren may inherit a dystopian world. How many of you notice that many world leaders are suffering from the biggus dickus syndrome; hence, everything is at peril? Many leaders are just empty suits with no original ideas to share. Many leaders know that divide and rule is the best strategy to follow, to keep the majority of the human race under their perpetual control. And we citizens are none the wiser.

However, it does not need to continue this way. We all can work together to bring about a change. We need not suffer from the bystander effect. We the people have to realize our true power. It will not require much to change the status quo, we just need to turn the tables on the powers that be and the sociopaths in charge. And, in my humble opinion, it would be quite easy to do so; all we need to do is follow a few simple maxims.

In my humble opinion, we should:

  • Follow Gandhi’s advice—“… if we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
  • Not fall prey to divisive agendas of the power that be (TPTB). We should band together against them; should form a community we can rely on. The faux leader and false prophets succeed by dividing us.
  • Never be married to an ideology that we cannot see past it and discern right from wrong.
  • Live and let live!
  • Question everything that TPTB says. They have every reason to lie to us to protect their turf. When it comes to government, we should run if we hear someone say, “We are from the government, and we are here to help.
  • Trust, but verify“, a quote made famous by President Ronald Reagan
  • Not believe in any promises made by the politicians. They lie with impunity. They will make the most outlandish promises to us, but will rarely mention how they will make those promises come true. Their promises are rarely SMART. Very intentionally, they will always remain vague. That’s how they can talk their way out of it later when they fail to meet any of their promises.
  • Vote with our feet when we are disappointed by the faux leaders or false prophets. We put them on a pedestal, and we can take them down.
  • Empathize with our fellow human being.
  • Realize that everybody deserves respect. We should treat all people—the rich, the poor, the weary and the downtrodden—equally.
  • Stand up for people who are less fortunate than us.
  • Know that the lives of the rich, the affluent, and the middle class are subsidised by the people who work for them, and many of those people are poor. The drivers, the guards, the waiters, the electricians, the plumbers, the garbage collector, the corner vegetable vendors, the street hawkers, the poor kid who delivers groceries to our home, and a host of other individuals are generally forgotten by the selfish society. Many people don’t even acknowledge their existence, they treat them with disdain, and consider them to be undeserving of any compassion and respect. The least we can do is say “thank you” for their services. Please do!
  • Think for ourselves; never let a talking head on TV do the thinking for us. We can never be sure that they do not have a hidden agenda. Believe in the aphorism—”I think, therefore I am.
  • Realize that the future is uncertain; hence, predicting the future is difficult. Approximate it and plan for it. Be self-sufficient.
  • Do what our heart tells us and our mind justifies. Doing so will allow us to be correct in our decisions or choices most of the time. The easiest way for TPTB to control us is to ensure that our thinking mind atrophies, by inundating us with propaganda masked as entertainment.
A desolate road

It is a lonely walk on a desolate road when you are not following the herd. © omygdala.com

Please know that this is not an easy path to follow, as I am realizing it first hand. I have been ridiculed for saying “thank you” to a parking lot attendant; people laugh at me for being compassionate; people question me for empathizing with someone they detest, people consider me to be “too nice”. It is indeed a lonely road to travel, but travel I will. I will not follow the herd off the cliff.

Did you know that we only need 3.5% of the population (courtesy: YouTube; TEDx talk by Erica Chenoweth) to start a movement, to overthrow a despot, or to effect a change. This means that if only 3.5% of the population pledges to change their approach towards life, we can effect a change in this country and this world, and help build a better tomorrow for all of humanity. The million dollar question is, is anybody interested? Would anybody like to join in? How about you?


Notes:

1 The employee number was inflated by Raju by as much as 13,000, to a total of 53,000, so that he could withdraw ₹ 20 crores (₹ 200 million) every month to pay these fictitious employees.
2A variation of the quote—For when the disciple is ready the Master is ready also—listed in the book, Light on the Path, by Mabel Collins, 1886. This original quote is often mistakenly attributed to Buddha.

External links for further reading:

Satyam scandal:
Jonestown:
Pol Pot:
Religion facts:
Management & Change Management:
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