The King’s Bedroom, and other places..

In the late 17th century King Louis XIV of France attached his nobles to the royal court at Versailles. Apartments were built to house those willing to pay court to the king. Pensions and privileges necessary to live in a style appropriate to their rank were only possible by waiting constantly on Louis. An elaborate court ritual was created where the king became the center of attention and was observed throughout the day by the public.  He developed rituals of reception in his state bedchamber, to which only a handful of his court were invited. Louis could then see who attended him at court and who was absent, facilitating the subsequent distribution of favors and positions.

In the modern age, we see vestiges of these behaviors in senior leaders and in the responses of employees to this “leadership” style; a style that rewards obsequious personalities, promotes manipulators, creates opportunists, and propels self promoters to the highest levels of the company or organization.  It is the style that values personality over character, tolerates only “happy talk”, and revels in relationship connections and cliques.  These leaders believe that their personal touch will resolve any issue, manage any conflict, defuse any disagreement, achieve consensus, ensure harmony, and by the power of her/his personality create coordination and compatibility.  The more senior they are, the more they believe this to be so.

For some employees, this style is an open invitation to manipulate their leaders. Sycophants, yes people, social virtuosos, opportunists and self promoters recognize and respond in kind by providing the leader what she/he needs most; validation, personal contact, praise, deference, and submissiveness.   They are amply rewarded with promotions, privileges, and status in this hierarchy of form over substance and in turn create and support more who operate in the same way.  Soon, leaders at almost every level operate in this fashion.

The employees who are motivated by the greater good, a self directed purpose to excel on behalf of the organization, and a bed rock mission and business sense are driven away by those who are more focused on currying favor in order to advance their own interests.  The former correctly see that a not so subtle form of discrimination is at work and their own talents are marginalized, even punished.

The king’s bedroom style of insidious and ultimately destructive behavior is particularly prevalent in government at senior levels.  Those who “go along to get along”, the “hail fellows (or ladies) well met”, and schmoozers find themselves at the very top. The employees who are willing to tell it like it is are marginalized, punished, and eventually eliminated.  Personalities dominate good character to the detriment of the mission and organization.  Tough decisions are avoided, difficult choices are made in favor of personal chemistry, the absence of decisions become default decisions and the entire organization suffers.

The very culture of the organization can be fundamentally altered, and not for the better.

“Privileged groups work for greater power consolidation through favoritism.” ― Bryant McGill, Voice of Reason

Happy New Year, Keith Stalder, #31

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