The technical firm I am writing about had two partners who were friends in college and built a business together. Yet, they were as different as day and night.
One was an adroit manipulator and loved power. It was evident that he played at listening and agreeing, but he had his own agenda, which had nothing to do with growing and nurturing others. The other partner was an athlete, close to world-class but not there. Amongst other problems, both at home and at work with his partner, he thought himself worthy of being world-class but could not reach that level.
A genius engineer I often worked with had the talent to improve organizational efficiency. Where I worked with relationships and interpersonal communications, he worked with a firm’s organization. We were a team that, if given the freedom and receptivity of management, mountains could have been built out of molehills.
The efficiency expert was restructuring the whole firm in the face of the one leader who hid his love of power as best he could and was an expert at duplicitous behavior. It soon became apparent that the “soft” athletic partner did not possess the tools to deal with his frustration at not being recognized for his athleticism, his inability to take a stronger leadership stance, and his disintegrating family life. It was all crashing down on him.
I remember him as the one who was open to growth, communication, and the growth of his firm. But his family life was being undermined, as was work, and his frustration at not being recognized as the athlete he imagined himself to be was all coming down on him. He eventually crashed, burned, and one day he disappeared. Evidently, he saw no other way out.
My favorite engineer and I did our best to save a very sick firm. Still, without leadership committed to their people, growth, honesty, and genuine dialogue, our efforts were the equivalent of “spitting in the wind.” It was a difficult lesson, and the reason that from then on, I made sure that the leader who sought to hire me to work with their firm understood that they had to participate as my student, or I would not work for them regardless of the fee.
The other lesson was that “power” rules. Power creates the environment and maintains it as long as those in power desire this for themselves. It is also one of power’s most important gifts to those under their influence to use it to empower others. The choice, as I learned, can only be made by those in power.
I rule, you follow—You allow me to control—Only you control