5 Things That Surprised Me About Powerful People
December 8, 2011 § 7 Comments
Over the past couple of days I’ve met some very senior people within the world of finance, government and business through the World Economic Forum ‘Global Shapers’ programme. I was struck that those with significant resources, access and power often have little idea of what to do – eurozone crisis, climate change, destructive economic systems all seem to be beyond their control. In fact,
- They don’t have the answers – there is a collective loss of confidence about how the world works. Very, very few have the courage to admit this lack of understanding + their own fear. Some very rare leaders are able to set goals (that override, or work within the growth framework) which steer their organisational ship in the right direction, with the hope that time+need will find solutions.
- Some are asking the right questions – most are not. Some are desperately ‘looking for new models’ and wanting ‘innovators to scale up’, without really knowing how or what they’re looking for. Others ask absurd questions like ‘but what is the Occupy movement FOR?’ and are defensive about any criticism directed at them.
- Social norms are often from the 1950’s – overwhelming gender imbalance and some very blokey culture, heterocentrism, tiny number of people of colour. No understanding of who-you-are-influences-how-you’re-heard. Often complete unwillingness to see this as a problem.
- Transformations are possible, but badly executed – encounters with reality, especially experiential ones, can radically shift attitudes and behaviour. Often though, after this experience, solutions are still taken from the old system – ‘set up a school in Africa’ etc.
- Little willingness to see systemic nature of problem – lots of de rigour systems language, but very few willing to use words like ‘capitalism’.
I realised that my own assumptions about the world still included the thought that these powerful people have a clear idea what they’re doing. Turns out, that ain’t so.