Independence Day and Leadership Tyrannies

Maybe the Declaration of Independence has some seeds of wisdom for those of us who would govern or follow within even the smallest of enterprises.

It’s Independence Day in the U.S.

And, while many Americans revel in the holiday by drinking, eating, gathering, and–yes–blowing a few things up (I know I do); it’s good to remember the underpinnings of the holiday…Namely a few, disgruntled subjects who decided that enough was enough.

There’s a lesson in the Declaration of Independence for those of us who lead and govern other people.  That lesson applies whether we are governing as a part of an actual government or governing as a leader in a company or other bureaucracy (a term used in the real sense, not the pejorative).

Those British subjects who decided it was time to vote with their feet, their fortunes, and their futures knew that it wasn’t without risk.  But the words placed in the Declaration ring throughout the years, and perhaps throughout your own head as you lead.  They should ring throughout your head if you are led by a despot, a tyrant, or a jerk.

To wit:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Kind of applies to your life as a professional and as a citizen, right?

As someone who has lived his professional life as a consultant to top management and as a corporate executive, I’m utterly sensitive to old irony of “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” The Declaration gives a model of what leaders and “subjects” need to watch out for in its list of grievances against George III.

I’ll pick a few, you read the rest.

The “Yes Men” brought to you by George III:

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

The imposition of corporate taxes through time, compliance, and worthless initiative:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

The squashing of entrepreneurial spirit:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.

And, of course, the mercenary manager or consultant as proxy for direct tyranny:

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

I figured I’d write this not to make light of the Declaration of Independence or of your and my own personal circumstances as leaders and followers, but to make a parallel to a nearly forgotten time when a land’s wealthiest people decided that their leader had done enough to merit severing of ties; and when a leader who was possibly not as despotic as the Declaration declares lost a treasure trove of talent and resources through insensitivity and stubbornness.

If enough was enough for those subjects of Great Britain, what’s your threshold as follower?

On the other side of the coin, if enough was enough for the King to lose the colonies, what are you doing as leader of your own realm that is driving away the most valuable of your people and resources?

It’s worth pondering.

For my fellow Americans:  Happy Independence Day.  For all my other friends, connections, and readers, it’s worth reading that most extraordinary of political and philosophical documents for what it may mean to you.

I welcome your comments.

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