Paradox of Careers and Power

So, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about power, authority and the qualities that are possessed by some great leaders. I keep running into the same paradox over and over again found in certain careers. What I find is those who most desire a certain position may be quite likely to be the worst candidates for that position. This was first noticed in the following real life example.

My current city is without a mayor. City Council was prepared to vote him out due to some issues concerning his performance. In turn, he resigned, but not without demonstrating the controversy, fighting and politicking that occurred amongst the City Council members. So who wants to work with a bunch of people who fight amongst themselves, some who are self-serving in their public service. No one in their right mind will WANT that position, to go face a monumental task and most likely be attacked from all sides.

However, a certain type of person looking at the prestige, the power and the respect that seems to follow a mayor, even the mayor of a 10,000 person town, might chose to pursue such a task. People looking for power for power’s sake tend to abuse power and use it for their own advantage. Power also has the tendency to corrupt even the most innocent of people.

So what kind of person will use power the best and least like to be corrupt by it. Those who do not seek power and understand that by the process of seeking power they will be corrupted by it’s influence.

In short, the person most seeking power as mayor, is the person likely to be least wanted in the position. The person least seeking power, is the person likely to be most wanted in the position.

One can see the same thing with our favorite TSA agents.

The person wanting to perform enhanced pat down procedures on other human beings, is the person we least want to actually perform those procedures. On the other hand, the person least wanting to perform enhanced pat down procedures on other human beings, is the person we most want to actually perform those procedures.




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2 Responses to Paradox of Careers and Power

  1. Emily Fisk says:

    Great point. This is why politicians are disliked in general–people generally see through to the self-serving motives behind their actions. How do you think we should address this in a constitutional republic/democracy? I think this may be why juries are can be very effective. On the one hand, people argue that the average Joe doesn’t have the interest or the ability to make an informed decision in a court of law. On the other hand, according to what you’ve said, they are the best people to entrust with power over another citizen’s future.

  2. David Armstrong says:

    Well, assuming that just by holding power doesn’t necessarily turn someone into a meglomaniac. At least a solution in part is to develop more leaders who may be reluctant, but adequate. Our system of checks and balances is designed to keep power from accumulating in one office or branch. Of course, we’ve allowed those in office to actually accumulate more and more power. Having more people who are reluctantly willing means more options, especially in systems that every wants the person gone, but no feels able to take the position.

    I’d also say that lawyers should not be allowed to write laws. There is a conflict of interest in allowing lawyers to write laws. Any increase in complexity of laws only acts as job security for a lawyer. A decrease in complexity in laws allows common citizens to know and understand the law. Similar to the IRS tax code, there are plenty of loopholes that allow the rich to skirt much of the taxes. But middle class do not have the opportunities that the rich have. In my own taxes, I’ve had 3 different opinions by accountants in my taxes when I was on staff at the church.

    Truly I’m avoiding the blood in the streets solution, but that might work well too.

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