Leadership That Matters, Part 5

My inner cynic reminds me that many people are selfish.  One trip to an amusement park, your local Walmart, or even trying to get out of the church parking lot, can reinforce that observation.  In western society, our philosophy has been to tell our children that they need to “look out for number one”.  Survival is attached to being the fittest.

This aspect of our culture has driven us to become bigger and better.  I certainly don't believe there is anything wrong with improving our situation, with developing and becoming a global leader in everything from innovation to education to any number of advances.  There is, however, balance that can be achieved, because the competition comes at a price.  Again, in the documentary I Am, Tom Shadyac discovered that  cooperation may be nature’s most fundamental operating principle.   As I brought up in LTM4, Professor Wilson's discussion regarding social behavior and the advancement of species, how altruism actually increased the propagation of humans and insects.  But consensus decision-making is not limited to these two either.  Altruistic behavior has been found amongst many species, including fish, birds, deer and primates. 

Competition implies conflict by its very nature.  A favorite line of mine in regard to competitive behavior (which I heard first in the movie Cars, but after searching, I have found attributed to Dale Earnhardt) is: "Only the winner wins; second place is the 'first loser'”. The call to be competitive has been drowning out the call to work together for a long time, but seems even more so in the last decade. The “Me” Generation has not left us and may not ever, unless a sea change occurs.  The attention span of the average citizen of Earth isn’t more than a few seconds.  "Why should I consider the effects of our actions on others?" one might ask. "All I care about is what is happening NOW."

Again, we return to context.  While one might not be inclined to do what is best for society because of their own selfish reasons, the facts illustrate that adversarial relationships within groups hinder success while altruistic behavior increases the chances for success.  From a purely objective outlook, there are more rewards for practicing altruism than not.  The question is, then, why won't people see this from that objective point of view?

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