Resist Kakistocracy and Embrace Meritocracy

Throughout the world, the multigenerational view held by many perceptive minds is that it never takes long to see through the deceptive charm, feeble idealism, and flickering halo of telegenic kakistocratic leaders.

At the helm of all kakistocracies is an unnerving and cringeworthy leadership by the least principled, least qualified, and least competent individuals. A privileged and pretentious elite bent on driving its own self-focused agenda! No wonder expectation of performance from kakistocrats has always been and will always be the dorkiest-sounding oxymoron.

In the sickening world of kakistocracy, sciolism transcends expertise, picking fights transcends ideological diversity, populism and opportunism transcend rationality and performance, a cult of loyalty transcends service delivery, indolence transcends impassioned productivity, perfunctory attention to detail transcends a detail-centric culture, organised chaos transcends stability, opportunistic extravagance transcends considered frugality, favouritism and a cockeyed view of intolerance-driven patriotism transcend objectivity and tolerance, treachery and conformance transcends trust and free speech, moral vacuity transcends moral fortitude, an outrageous sense of entitlement transcends the spirit of self-sacrifice, and the dominance of self-praise and a shrinking culture of accountability transcend constructive criticism and openness.

Kakistocracy is a global phenomenon known to frequently raise its ugly head on the bedraggled global socio-economic and political landscape. It has been felt by both the developed and developing economies and has often spoiled discipline and unity on all branches of leadership: executive, legislative, judicial, state security, corporate and academic. It normally manifests itself in the form of an immoral ecosystem peppered with a motley of sensitive in-your-face undesirable practices, where pseudo-leaders tend to gravitate towards excessive bureaucracy, abuse of power, cronyism, systematic failure to deliver on the social contract, neglect of the masses, grand larceny, grifterish fever and venality, unimplemented forward-looking policies, indifference to growing wealth inequality, caring not one iota about a multi-layered workforce which balloons approved budgets when new positions are created to deal with leadership challenges as opposed to decisively reorganising existing talent pool to deliver optimally, and lack of accountability.

Disappointment always etches itself on the faces, minds and hearts of individuals when lionised people and institutions transition from seemingly quintessential meritocratic bastions to glaringly notorious powerhouses of mediocracy. After investing trust on such individuals and organisations, the level of despair generated by gross inefficiency and calculated foxiness often breeds an unflattering combo of legitimate frustration, harrowing betrayal and an intractable mood of utter despondence.

This calls upon all individuals bestowed with the authority to appoint capable resources to positions of authority to conscientiously apply their minds and look beyond the self-serving privilege of amity and kinship. Availability, capacity, and meritocratic pizzazz must be the most important factors. The risk of appointing unqualified resources is the high probability of failure to hit strategic performance targets. Add to that the potential for a fallout by a contingent of lickspittle senior officers, forced to obsequiously chuffle at the feet of their sponsors, even if it is at the cost of suppressing their conscience by docilely following questionable orders. If that happens, professional fatigue will speedily set in on the loyal marionettes, hitting them like a well-pitched softball, in a high-energy fast-pitch game, would strike a weary inattentive batter.

For leaders to avoid relegating themselves to a lowly gasbag status, they must soak up every drop of the liquefied wisdom captured in the following immortal words uttered by an American writer named Steve Maraboli, “You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” This places on all of us the compelling responsibility to reject appointment to positions we are not qualified for, particularly when we are handpicked to the exclusion of more qualified resources. Once we recognise the importance of this pivotal value, we would have earned our hegira towards a culture of meritocracy and well on our way to writing our story, and probably writing it well.

Hence the need to introspectively engage ourselves; “Am I self-motivated? Is my self-worth rooted in the glorious delusion of fraternising with sponsors? Shouldn’t I rather subscribe to the astoundingly unburdened panache of corruption-defying imperative of personal autonomy? Does my sense of self-respect empower me to have a special space in my soul, a well-ringfenced impregnable fortress, totally impenetrable by corrosive external forces bent on assailing, violating, and ruining my individual conscious agency? Am I excited or prickled by legitimate demands for accountability?”

Each one of us has embarked on a journey. The conclusion of each day yields a set of coordinates essential for mapping our life’s route. We resemble a projectile launched into a dynamic but friction-infused environment. This breeds the following questions: What is my vision? Where am I in my personal trajectory? Where do I see the projectile that is my modest-self landing? What is the cornerstone of my values? Am I digging deep into my reserves of integrity-infused stamina and energetically marching on the smooth incline of excellence or am I accelerating down the wretched steep slope of ineptitude? Do I have the presence of mind to cling to an elevated sense of moral fortitude that will fortify me to say no if my sponsors engage in frontal or subtle schemes to force me into overt or covert professional waywardness?

For all I care, all attempts at launching unworthy and compromised resources into the realms of the empyrean blue will at some stage backfire under pressure from the natural gravitational pull. That is the price paid by mindsets warped with a flawed ambition. They lack the strength and character to carve for themselves a permanent structurally sound tenement in the firmament. My bedrock view is that no one should ever be deceived by biased adulatory sentiments blurted out by cunning sponsors driven by impure motives.

If we are leaders of institutions, our ambition to occupy that ornate office should be driven by a keen sense of awareness of the explicit and implicit mandates of our organisations as well as the desire to set an example worthy of emulation by subordinates. If our professional instincts inspire us to discreetly toe the line of decency by actively rejecting all seductive attempts at compromising our ethical comportment, even the lowest of officers are likely to closely follow our clearly visible footprint embedded in the often-unforgiving terrain. This will result in a head-to-toe sustainable culture of integrity and an environment inclined to uphold the highest professional values.

Tempting as it is for the world’s masses to bury their head in the sand, like a turtle sensing danger would retract its sensitive head into its bony-hard carapace, we should resist to invest our energy on placating kakistocrats and showering them with skin-deep praise. Led by our fully functional and uncompromised moral compass, how glorious it would be to instinctively tighten controls and call out such toxicity! Across all levels of the global socio-economic terrain, the world deserves a deep well of excellence coupled with a bloom of meritocracy. All liberally festooned with a silver-lining of effective bureaucracy-busting initiatives, a deliberate stance towards deflating a workforce that is bloated at the top, zero-tolerance for foot-dragging and lack of accountability, an entrenched culture of matching of resources to positions of authority considering requisite skillset and track record, and an unapologetic reclamation of power from the least competent and the least principled pseudo-leaders.

Simply put, as a unit, the world cannot afford to frivolously push excellence to the fringes of candescence. Meritocrats always recognise that theirs is a calling to serve. The bigger picture of performance must always override short-term selfish ambitions. I can only hope that I am not shouting into the air!

Editor's Comment
Isn’t There A Better Way?

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