Commentary: It could be the leader of a nation or the CEO of a corporation or the manager of a local fast food outlet, but you might recognize this person. You know, the man or woman boss that just happens to know everything about everything. The one that’s always the smartest person in the room. The one that’s always right. The one who takes credit for success and none of the blame for mistakes or failures. The one whose top priority is always their own self and making sure they look good in the eyes of everyone around them. The one who is only concerned about how much work and admiration they get out of you and is devoid of any honest interest in you as a human being or a real live person.
When you talk to this person, he never really listens. He gets that annoyed facial look and is impatient that you’re bothering him for a few seconds. He makes it clear you should stop talking. He loves to hear himself talk and is perturbed that you are taking time away from his mouth exercise. And you can never, ever, under any circumstances, criticize him in any way. The wrath brought down upon you is not something you ever want to see coming your way. The angry Greek gods of old could take lessons from this man or woman.
You have to follow all the rules, but they don’t. They can do as they please, and they demand that everyone else around them like it. And everyone does, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be in that office very long.
You need your job and so you put up this. You become less eager to wake up in the morning. You get irritable and withdrawn from others. You beg for Friday afternoon even though Monday morning isn’t over yet. It takes a toll on your peace of mind and health, but you ignore that because you don’t see a way out. You have so many bills and jobs are hard to get.
The Dark Cloud who sits in the big office always finds new ways to put you down. After a while, the old ways lose some of their punch and so new ways are found. This isn’t because there’s a good reason to demean you. He or she does this because they can, they want to, and they want you to know he can. And they want everyone else to know they can, too. It gets them excited and you see how pleased they are with themselves.
You want real trouble? Be smarter than they are about anything. Have an opinion about something that differs from theirs. Have knowledge or skills you could take with you elsewhere which makes you less vulnerable and needy to their bully presence. They hate that and will blame you for it.
Many of these people in leadership positions know how to put on a pleasant face. They know how to look good in front of people because that helped them get where they are. They know the right things to say and the right things they need to keep hidden. They know the game they are playing. They are masters at it. And they resent anyone who sees all this as the sad game that it really is. You’re expected to play along and not know you’re just a bit player in their sorry saga. This is the Dark Cloud method of leadership because your superior hangs like a big dark cloud over your life and the lives of others.
Everyone has some of these nasty tendencies inside. But responsible adults grow beyond the need to indulge these negative characteristics. But not everyone, that’s for sure.
Maybe you never had a superior like this. If so, consider yourself extremely lucky. And of course, not all leaders act like a big Dark Cloud. But far too many do.
Why look at such unpleasantness? Because too much of our society and its institutions
function on this sad hurtful model. This codified power-trip behavior is the centerpiece of too many businesses, social organizations, political parties, and even organized religion and the local school board or homeowners association. Get any two or more people together and the jockeying for power begins immediately. Someone right away has to be The Boss.
It took a lot for each of us to get into this world. It takes a lot to survive every day. Were we put here just to live under someone’s dark cloud day after day? Are we here to teach our children to grow up to endure these same things? And, all the generations to come?
We’ve all seen caged animals. Those animals will do everything possible to fight their way out of the cage. That is, they will until they finally give up and don’t try anymore after a while.
Are we destined to put on our tense smile every day and drag our anxious bodies into situations that deny our personal destiny and happiness? Are we destined to always be in someone’s cage? I’m afraid so. That is, until the day when we say no more of this. That is the day we realize there is more inside of us and a happier and more rewarding way to live if we have the imagination and courage to pursue it. The day we say no more of the Dark Cloud is the day we meet ourselves for the first time and know who we really are as unique once-in-an-eternity individuals. Each of us has been given our own special talents, skills, history, life experience, point of view, unique voice, and our own individual and not-to-be-duplicated special destiny.
We can always find ways in our circumstances to make this happen. We must. Or we can put on that fake smile yet another day, feel the tension in our stomach, and take our daily dose of darkness and once again pray for the end of the day.
Is this Dark Cloud leadership model the best our civilization can come up with? We need more superiors who lead by good example and less by thunderous decree. We need more leaders who rule less by selfishness and more by compassion. We need more leaders who are more concerned with the welfare of those they lead and less with their own gain. We need more leaders with a bigger vision instead of short term expediency.
Until we get more of that kind of leader, we must ask a question. Who is the real boss of your life? Is it that Dark Cloud in the big office? Or someone else? When you know right answer, you’ll feel terrified and liberated. And you’ll love how good that feels.