13 votes

When I ran for President, it messed with my head

2 comments

  1. [2]
    Gaywallet
    Link
    This is a good first hand reflection on how a brief stint with fame has shaped and changed how he found himself thinking. However, I think there's more to be learned about power and what makes a...
    • Exemplary

    This is a good first hand reflection on how a brief stint with fame has shaped and changed how he found himself thinking. However, I think there's more to be learned about power and what makes a good leader. There's a quote from a psychology professor that I feel is somewhat shortsighted in the context of this article:

    If you become powerful, you have less need to read other people because you have command of resources. The need to demonstrate empathy is behind you.

    Do you have less need to read other people, or do we let leaders lead by themselves and not as a group?

    My own experience with leadership at the several companies I've worked at has exposed me to a spectrum of management and leadership. There's a real range of style and I think we haven't spent enough time understanding when and where certain styles are good.

    My manager before last at my current job was perhaps one of the worst managers I've had. She would ask me for my input often, which is good, but really only paid attention to it when it lined up with what she thought or when she had no opinion. I found often that there was no give when it came to things she wanted to accomplish. Much like the leaders Yang describes in this article, she viewed herself as more important than others and I do not think this is good for management or leadership.

    However, my current director is perhaps one of the best managers I've ever had. He will almost always ask for my opinion on ideas before even starting a conversation to set the context of a request or why he needed my opinion. After setting up the context, he'll often continue to ask questions. He never directly offers his thoughts on the matter unless questioned about them. In many ways, he's deferring to my expertise. In group meetings he acts similarly to others and from some of the decisions I've seen, it's clear he's usually spending most of his time deferring to the people who are actually executing the job. In the rare cases that he has a strong opinion or disagrees, it's a conversation about pros and cons, potential pitfalls, etc. and the answer is not set in stone until everyone gets to make their case.

    The one narrative I saw throughout Yang's commentary on what he went through, is that there was a clear absence of him talking about how he collaborated with others and how he deferred to their expertise. For example, he says this

    Everyone asks you what you think. You function on appearance; appearance becomes your role. Empathy becomes optional or even unhelpful. Leadership becomes the appearance of leadership.

    Yet a few hundred words ago he was talking about deferring to experts about how to dress, how to create ads, and other ways in which they ran his life. Why wasn't he also reaching out to others when he's asked about what he thinks?

    It strikes me as a rather American ideal, some mythical leader with infallible logic and the perfect course of action, that's poisoning the well here. It's kind of ironic considering how we've established our government - there are endless branches of the government which exist to collect experts in various fields and allow them to communicate openly with government about the concerns and problems they face. We have groups of scientists presenting to the senate and president and yet we decide that the best way to conduct politics is to be a cult of 'you' - 'you' (the politician) always make the right decision.

    Perhaps the problem is that we haven't found a way to build a leadership structure where the right set of many voices outpower one. I think what can keep a leader grounded and prevent them from losing empathy is for us to design a system which doesn't treat their voice as more important than the voices of others. If, for example, when making decisions about finance the leaders voice is weighted with senior finance leadership and similarly for any other aspect we can arrive at a state where a leaders primary job is to listen rather than dictate.

    7 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      To me it seems more like he’s talking about getting lulled into being a lightweight celebrity, focused on the superficial. In the end, people want to know why you’re the best person for the job,...

      To me it seems more like he’s talking about getting lulled into being a lightweight celebrity, focused on the superficial.

      In the end, people want to know why you’re the best person for the job, and the election results show that celebrity name recognition isn’t enough. It’s a tough question to answer though. What makes a good president, or a good mayor? How could we tell? I don’t think most voters have any idea.

      The main thing I got from this excerpt is that he still has something to say. Though often these books are ghost-written so who knows.

      4 votes