Wednesday, June 20, 2007

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility....Yeah Right!

If you’ve seen the first installment of the movie Spiderman you probably know the famous line from that movie “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”. This line helped keep Spidey grounded as he struggled with understanding how to use his new abilities or powers. In the world of business there are many that have power that should certainly reflect on the responsibility associated with the power they wield. .

Power is a relative term, but in business, one way power is defined is by position or rank within the company. The CEO usually wields the most power as this person has the ability to shape the direction of the organization. With each level below the CEO, power diminishes however I believe there is a distinct break in power once you pass the executive level (Vice Presidents). The CEO forms the direction, strategy and culture of the company and utilizes the Executive Staff to employ their power to filter that down to the rank and file.

But what if the people who wield the power within a company are corrupt? Just because a CEO and his/her Executive Staff have the power, it doesn’t mean they are skilled enough or ethical enough to use it wisely. Hell, most executives acquired power through unethical means. I’ve seen the political jockeying that goes on to attain power at a company, and most times it has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with how cunning and conniving a person can be in destroying their fellow power seekers. So if they’ve attained power through unethical means, you can pretty much bet that they’ll use that power unethically, which usually translates into power for their own benefit.

So how does this concept of business power relate to the non powerful folks (most likely you) at a company? If your executives have the power, but lack the ethics you probably are working for a company, much like mine, that doesn’t care about employees. The profile of a powerful yet unethical executive staff is clear. They love to talk, usually about themselves or their accomplishments. They don’t listen or care to interact with the employees who do 99% of the work. And, they have no problem collecting large salaries with bonuses while screwing you each year with horrible yearly increases along with cuts to your benefit programs (health care, dental, etc).

The last point is particularly frustrating as I am made to feel greedy when I question my 2.5% raise for exceeding expectations, while I watch the big shots drive around in their Lexus’ or other highly expensive vehicles. I also enjoy watching them as they all go out to lunch, every single day, while I eat my packed lunch. The topper is getting rejected for training I need, while they gallivant all over the country attending “conferences”, with their wives that really are paid company vacations.

Unfortunately the line should be re-written to say “With Great Power Should Come Great Responsibility” because having power in business does not automatically mean those in power will be responsible. Responsible Executives realize the power they have been given to lead a company is a privilege and use that power to grow their business and employees within that business. Most irresponsible Executives are only interesting in growing their own bank account. That’s why there are so many lackluster, under-performing companies out there.


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