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The Only Authority That Matters Are Results

“Unthinking Respect for Authority is the Greatest Enemy of Truth” — Albert Einstein


What’s fun about having your own blog is that you can juxtapose a topic like bucking authority with a quote from an authority on bucking authority. Quotes, of course, are an indicator of authority. So if Albert Einstein says we shouldn’t unquestionably respect authority, I agree with him. Wait…

I could spend the rest of the time talking about how great Gen Y is because we’ve figured that out but that would be completely untrue. Generalizations about other generation’s relative success or failures in this light would be untrue as well. The fact is every generation deals with figuring out how to respect authority properly while still making smart decisions. More importantly, individuals still make poor decisions. It is the reason why you see “Stripping Grandmas Go Wild” on The Jerry Springer Show. If experience and authority ultimately bought competency, you shouldn’t see that. We shouldn’t see it anyway bit that’s really beside the point.

Now I am trying to get that image out of my head.

We’ve seen this in history before too. Citizens become blindingly loyal to a particular political leader for a variety of reasons but some do this simply because the leader is the leader. That’s not a good enough reason. We should be looking at results. We should be looking at how they handled challenges. We should be looking at what they do not what they say.

It happens all of the time with authority.

“He’s been in accounting for 25 years. I am sure he is right.”

“She’s the president of the company. We need to support it.”

“He’s saved three companies before ours. We should take his recs.”

It is a total cop out. Instead of reasoning, instead of explaining, you simply say this person knows what they are doing because they are an authority. And people in authority eat that up, especially when they aren’t confident in their own abilities. They don’t need your pesky challenges.

Of course, great leaders know that results today are infinitely more important than results yesterday. They don’t need someone defending their years of experience. They understand that the plan is bigger than the man (or woman). If the plan works, then your age doesn’t matter. If the plan fails, then your age doesn’t matter. Depending on the results, someone might say your age explains why you succeeded or failed but that’s really an after-thought.

When I see older folks relying more on their years of experience than monitoring and improving results or younger folks relying on their ability to generate new ideas without concern for results, I see two groups of people that simply don’t get it. If they find success, it will be in spite of themselves.

That’s why I am leery of authority that is built on years of experience rather than results. It is also the reason why I don’t write everything that comes to my mind (or I am careful about how I present it). If I am just throwing an idea out there, that’s one thing but if I am going to make a recommendation, it is going to be based on results. And I wouldn’t buy any authority that doesn’t rely on the same standards.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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