The Elegance of the Grey: The Political lense of Teaming
The Elegance of the Grey
I recently got into a debate with a libertarian friend of mine about taxes. He argued that liberals and some conservatives do not view people as equals because they want to tax people’s hard-earned income. They believe that certain people thus have moral superiority over everyone else which gives them rights to other people’s property and results of their labor. He used a striking term to highlight his point “They have been successful in convincing the unwashed that taxes are for our own good, because the unwashed don’t really know what’s good for them.” His argument is that governmental intervention is really about control and is “organized theft”.
This is a common argument from the populist right and as we spoke I realized that this is a misunderstanding in our political debate today. The flaw in my friend’s assumption, and other fans of small government and big tax cuts, is that they believe paying taxes proportional to your wealth is somehow a “moral” issue. It has nothing to do with morality. It is money. Money does not care about anyone. It is a tool we use to invest and exchange services, nothing more. This is where Karl Marx fell short. He believed that compensation for labor had some greater intrinsic value. He was wrong as behavioral economics and psychology can demonstrate. But it also disproves those who believe in Ayn Rand’s utopia where the wealthy deserve every penny they have and no one needs to share anything. Neither work in practice: people in those systems always create moderating rules… often through black markets that ignore the rules or by developing informal rules to manage volatility.
Extremes like these prove the research that humans are inherently self-focused and incentive driven beings who should be encouraged to make their own choices within limits designed to minimize injury to others. That is classical liberal and utilitarian thought. It has been shown to provide great success through the ages. Thus, it is incorrect to conclude that there is some interest in paternalism or control of the ‘unwashed” in liberal thought. It encourages individuals to do what is in their own interest; but only with a referee (government) in place to help those who did not learn or figure out what they need to do for economic security. It also happens to minimize conflict because basic needs of the general population are met.
Within organizations similar extreme views can be extremely detrimental to the mission of the organization. The political frame of power in an organization is best described as shades of grey. As an organization grows it does so by investing in its people. People have their own unique views about the organization and best option for the organizational direction. This emphasizes the need for every organization to remember to focus on process over task. If you focus on tasks you will likely end up talking past your peers, your direct reports will misunderstand (or ignore) your directives or a similar malfunction in communication and effectiveness. Talk more about process of how to understand those unique perspectives of the organization you all work in so you can make that transition and overcome the grey areas of group dynamics.
Remember, nothing is perfect in human interaction there will be mistakes made; embrace failure and use it as a data to improve your leadership!