Hidden in an article about a recent mass shooting was the following datum, which has more relevance to your responsibilities as a business leader than you might think:
“Far-right radicalism is the nation’s top domestic threat, according to the FBI, particularly in the category known as RMVE, racially motivated violent extremism, the agency’s catchall term for white supremacist and neo-Nazi militants.” (“3 shot dead in hate crime in Florida,” John Raoux, Terry Spencer, and Trisha Ahmed, 8/27/2023, Associated Press.)
I’m certainly not challenging the FBI’s tabulations on this front. The FBI has both more data and more expertise on the subject than I do.
But I think a deeper root cause analysis might be in order, because tossing aside a few more shovels full of dirt would, I think, reveal that far-right radicalism is the consequence of an even more pernicious neurological ailment – one we’re all vulnerable to if we aren’t wary, namely, the deep-seated need to despise and feel superior to some identifiable group of people.
And it isn’t just some identifiable group of people either. It’s always the same identifiable group: “Them.” As I’ve pointed out before, “we” are the source of all that’s good and right with the world: We’re smart, we’re strong, we’re virtuous. We demonstrate excellent personal hygiene, and we’re snappy dressers, too. That’s in contrast to “them.” They’re ignorant, stupid, and too ignorant to know the difference between ignorance and stupidity. Their morals are unsavory, they smell bad, and their mothers dress them funny.
I’ve made this point before, but perhaps not often enough.
The connection to your leadership?
Once upon a time I presented the five primary motivators – useful to marketers, just as useful to business leaders with some minor tweaks: (1) need for approval; (2) fear; (3) exclusivity; (4) greed; and (5) guilt.
Focus your attention on exclusivity (“A dangerous way to motivate,” 10/27/1997). It caters to the desire most people have to be unique and to matter. Remember the recruiting ad the Marines used to excellent effect? It was “The few, the proud, the Marines!”
Join the Marines and you became part of a rarified, special, exclusive group. This was highly motivating to your average Marine (yes, I know, there’s no such thing as an “average” Marine), but won no friends among the Army’s troops.
It’s a dangerous way to motivate business employees because it’s divisive, encouraging employees to treat rival organizational silos with disdain and without cooperation or collaboration.
Which takes us back to our national culture and your role as a business leader in helping to shape it: Whenever a business leader encourages employees to divide the organization into rival silos, that leader encourages employees to divide other aspects of their world into “us” and “them” too.
Bob’s last word: Faced with news of yet another mass shooting it’s easy to feel powerless.
But as a business leader there is something you can do: Whenever you hear an employee grousing about “them” and how awful “they” are, challenge them. It doesn’t matter whether “they” are HR bureaucrats, Accounting’s bean counters, IT’s propeller-heads, or management’s empty suits.
If you can help those you lead jettison the us vs them mental habit you’ll have helped.
Because while I ain’t no expert, I’m pretty sure mass shooters are less likely to aim at those they think of as “us” than they are to fire at “them.”
Bob’s sales pitch: You might have noticed the links to past KJRs. In round numbers the KJR archives contain about 1,400 entries, which means if you’re looking for a commentary on a subject that interests you, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve written about it at least once.
I’d be delighted if you were to take advantage.
On CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide: “6 ways CIOs sabotage their IT consultant’s success.” The point? It’s up to IT’s leaders to make it possible for the consultants they engage to succeed. If they weren’t serious about the project, why did they sign the contract?