As a card-carrying member of the KJR community, you know our guts are optimized for digestion, not for a dominant role in the executive decision-support system.

While watching The Loudest Voice a biopic chronicling the rise and fall of Fox News’ Roger Ailes — it occurred to me that, when making decisions, deciding whether or not we should rely on our intestines is less consequential than deciding who we trust to provide us with information and insights.

The Loudest Voice, for example, tells a compelling tale. Much of it is or could reasonably have been supported by sources close to Ailes and Fox News. But some of the story depicts private circumstances, especially between Ailes and his wife Elizabeth, for which the scriptwriters could not plausibly have had any reliable sources to draw on.

Scratch The Loudest Voice off my list of places to get insights into conservative media.

But the story as told was compelling (and Russell Crowe’s performance as Ailes was brilliant). Were I a left-wing partisan I’d have been vulnerable to accepting the entire production as history, not just “based on a true story.”

Which brings us to the opinions we form and the decisions we make, not only in our personal livee as citizens and voters, but as managers and professionals as well.

How do you decide which of your potential information sources you can trust? And if you find yourself disagreeing with folks you need to persuade, how do you pry them loose from the information sources they rely on … usually, one or more of the big three analyst firms (Gartner, Forrester, IDC) … to more reliable sources such as Keep the Joint Running, or, even better (for you), you and your colleagues who will have to turn CIO decisions into practical action?

Here’s a starting point: Have some. Information sources, that is.

Take time … make time … to read, about developments in your areas of specialization, and, even more important, where you don’t specialize.

As you read, pay attention to your own confirmation bias.

Read critically, but not so critically that you ignore ideas and trends you should be knowledgeable about.

But on the other hand, we all need to pay special attention to the other side of our confirmation biases, uncritically accepting sources we like, or that tell us what we want to hear.

In the political world, that’s how QAnon has gained influence. Political partisans start with the desire for their own opinions to dominate. That easily turns into a need to dislike those they disagree with — for their opponents to be bad people. Once I need my opponents to be bad people it’s just one small step for me to seek out information sources that disparage them.

In the IT world we don’t (yet) have any QAnons to worry about. Nobody reads an IT opinion piece because it vilifies … well, maybe we do.

Imagine you’re on a solution selection project and have developed a preference for one of the candidates. Now imagine the team seems to be leaning to a different candidate, one you’re far more skeptical of.

As we’re dealing in hypotheticals, next imagine you search for industry evaluations that back your position. You run across a Gartner Magic Quadrant that places your preferred solution in the prized “Leader” quadrant while scoring the one you dislike as a hopeless loser (“Niche” in GartnerSpeak).

I don’t know about you, but my inclination would be to immediately share Gartner’s views with the selection team.

But if Gartner’ analysis ran the other way, I’d probably search for a second opinion. Imagine what I found was a hatchet job that cast aspersions, not only on Gartner’s methodology, but on its objectivity and integrity as well. Would I be tempted to share that with the team?

Of course I’d be tempted. Would I actually share it? I hope that if the critique in question was based solely on hypotheticals, with no actual evidence to back it up, I’d resist the temptation.

I hope.

Sharing that sort of thing wouldn’t be QAnon-grade conspiracy-theory mongering. But it would be a step in that general direction, especially because the act of sharing it doesn’t just influence the people around me. It also sets up the vicious cycle of selecting what I read based on my likes and dislikes, reinforcing them.

Which in turn leads me to make my future information sourcing choices searches, not for information, but for ammunition.

And that’s the point this week: We need to choose our information sources carefully. Choose none and we’re just ignorant.

But choosing the wrong ones will make us worse than ignorant.

It will make us deluded.

We just finished watching The Borgias. It was, while entertaining, not particularly accurate history.

In the hierarchy of entertainment based on actual human beings, it wasn’t a true story. That would have meant everything depicted in it happened as depicted. Nor was it based on a true story, where the basics happened as shown, but with some plot points and character development enhanced for dramatic impact.

No, The Borgias was, like The Moral Hazard of Lime Daiquiris, the novel Dave Kaiser and I co-authored, inspired by a true story — neither its creators nor Dave and I let mere facts interfere with entertainment value.

It was, in a word, fiction.

But never mind all that. Instead, mind all this: During the time we were enjoying the show, I happened upon an old (2004) KJR that talked about servant leadership, and another that discussed the popular diagnosis of psychopathy among business leaders.

Which led me to wonder how servant and psychopathic leaders would have fared in early renaissance Italy.

My not particularly unpredictable guess: The psychopaths would have fit right in. The servant leaders? Not so much. Not only wouldn’t they have lived to a ripe old age, but in the Middle Ages they probably wouldn’t have lived to a ripe middle age.

Which, sadly, calls into question the whole notion of servant leaders. As Machiavelli (nicely depicted in The Borgias as the Florentine ambassador and Cesar Borgia’s occasional mentor) explained in The Prince, “Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

In Renaissance Italy this meant having no qualms about engaging in armed conquest and the occasional assassination. In the modern workplace, backstabbing is more often metaphorical, but, I suspect, no less frequent.

If your career is academic you might consider basing your thesis research on this question. The easy part: a survey that asks a random sampling of employees whether they’ve ever been backstabbed. I predict an arithmetic mean of 100% with an error bar of +/- 0.01%.

Just as easy: also asking whether they’ve ever engaged in backstabbing — for this I predict the mean will be below 5% (error bar of +/- 1.0%). If I’m remotely close that would mean five percent of the workforce routinely victimizes everyone else.

Except that what would really mean is that most of us, faced with anything less than adulation by our managers and peers, conclude we must have been victimized while those of us who receive adulation from our managers and peers figure it must be well deserved.

Which gets us back to how the Borgias behaved in The Borgias (sorta plot spoiler alert, but only in general). No matter who they tortured, killed, imprisoned, or inflicted other forms of mayhem on, they just couldn’t seem to figure out that they had so many enemies because they tortured, killed, imprisoned, and inflicted various forms of mayhem.

The Borgias might not be accurate history. But as a metaphorical account of how psychopathic business leaders think and respond, this is, in my experience, a not-unreasonable rendering.

Which leads to this: If you aspire to reach the executive ranks and want servant leadership to shape your actions, be prepared for disappointment.

Whatever else, you’ll have to research potential employers carefully and subtly, and especially consider the affiliations and histories of those on the board of directors. If you don’t like what you know about the companies they come from you probably won’t like the management culture of the organization they govern.

Usually, when discussing the role of fiction vs fact in developing a worldview, the KJR position is that you should rely on facts to make your decisions, with fiction being a useful way to illustrate your thinking.

But in the question of servant vs psychopathic leaders, it’s the idea that those with a servant-style temperament are likely to reach the top echelons of the organizational chart that’s fiction. The Borgias illustrates the point nicely; the Borgias and their enemies and allies demonstrate it.