During the the past two weeks a few “Messianic” figures have imploded or are in complete melt down mode.
Kanye West in the world of music whose business and reputation have cratered as he went on a verbal rant of great rage.
Sam Bankman-Fried the CEO of FTX who transformed from being a face and savior of the crypto industry to losing most of his wealth overnight and potentially facing jail time for fraud.
And then there is Elon.
While Kanye and Sam have imploded we are viewing the rapid decaying of Elon Musk who is running a master class on value and reputation destruction one tweet at a time.
And further afield in Russia is Mr Putin who is destroying lives, economies and reputation at the end of a long long table.
A Messiah or God Complex
What is a Messiah Complex?
From Wikipedia :A messiah complex is a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are destined to become a savior today or in the near future.
What triggers a God complex?
It can manifest as a justification to behave a certain way or take a particular course of action that is unethical and even dangerous. Similar to many other mental disorders, the exact cause of this complex is not known.
Messiahs share three common traits.
1. The Rule of Law is not for them: Contracts do not matter. Financial regulations are for the birds. Other people are lower level creatures who do not have rights. Borders are decided on personal predilections.
2. Incestuous Thinking: Get high on their own fumes. View everything from narrow perspectives. Do not listen to other perspectives.
3. Sycophantic Choruses: They surround themselves with yes-people who aid, abet and re-enforce their worst impulses and behaviors. Anyone who disagrees is banished. Often fawning press furthers their self-regard by echoing that they are just awesome in every way.
The turd at the head of the table.
In one of the most popular posts of this thought letter called “The Turd on the Table” best practices on addressing tough issues such as calling out that the moist brown thing on the table is not a brownie but a piece of excrement are discussed.
Companies and leaders that do not create an environment where mistakes and bad behavior can be discussed are doomed to great problems (Wells-Fargo opening fake accounts is an example).
But what happens if the turd sits at head of the table?
The dear leader is the problem which will end up costing everyone dear.
This is a far more difficult challenge which is why many leaders who are not constrained by boards, advised by truth tellers or who look for data that does not support but challenges their beliefs, destroy not just themselves but create massive havoc in peoples lives and significant financial destruction.
Avoiding the Karma of Self-Defeat.
Most messianic leaders end up defeating themselves by stretching things too far.
Napoleon stretched his resources too far by opening the Russian front.
Bankman-Fried stretched the truth and line between FTX and Alameda so there was no line.
Musk is twittering too much and is now frittering so much.
If one believes one sits as God in heaven above all , does not see other points of view and is surrounded by a chorus of enablers, sooner or later hell arrives.
Successful individuals and companies should learn from these tragic stories and damaged people in the following ways:
1. Diversity: Diversity of backgrounds and thinking particularly in leadership teams are critical. If everybody thinks the same way, it can be dangerous. Disagreement and challenging points of view is what boards, external perspectives and independently successful people bring to a company or to a person.
2. Building a case for the opposite: Whenever a key decision needs to be made a team or individual should be charged with building a case for the exact opposite of what you as an individual, a leader or board are considering. This provides two benefits. First it allows one to make sure that group think does not disconnect us from reality since there is a reminder that we may be wrong. Second it helps us correct gaps in the thinking of our original recommendation. It is like stress testing our proposition.
4. Remember the future comes from the slime and not the heavens: There are many benefits of being a leader, working at a very successful company and being on the top of the world. Everybody wants to meet with you or think you are cool because of the fame and reputation of your company. The press fawns and friends’ gush. It gives us all a great rush.
The future usually does not emerge from the gatherings at Davos, The Allen Conference or at TED but where no one is looking or visiting. The Auto companies were looking at each other and they missed Tesla and Uber. Procter and Gamble missed Dollar Shave Club. IBM missed Microsoft. And today TikTok has more engagement than every Facebook property combined (Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp). So, let’s meet the crazy folks who have an idea, go off the beaten path and not take ourselves too seriously.
Or let us remember just one characteristic to minimize self-defeat.
Are the proponents of Web 3 yet another group of messiahs who will be cut to size? With crypto in free-fall and Metaverse investment poison to Meta shareholders is the promise of Web 3 empty sloganeering? Not so.
In this week’s very special episode of What Next? listen to a conversation with GC Cooke, an entrepreneur and FTSE 100 company director, discuss Web 3: The End of Business As Usual, his groundbreaking new book that aims to educate readers about the potential of web3 for businesses and society. We discuss how we are entering the The Third Connected Age, how we are about to see a major supply-side re-invention, the rise of a creator class and the re-design of the future of work and business. A must listen 39 minute episode which includes a conversation about monetizing songs about chickens croaked out in a shower!
Rishad Tobaccowala is an author, speaker, educator and advisor who helps people see, think and feel differently about growth. Growth of their business, their teams and themselves. Check out Rishad’s workshops that companies world wide are leveraging to unleash their talent and enhance their productivity: The Workshops. For more about Rishad Tobaccowala click here.