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Day 46: on power

Posted on 3 mins read

Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality. Lord Acton

This phrase pretty much summaries the extent of my beliefs about power. And the most important word in that phrase is the idea of despotism, which in some definitions, means to rule over others with absolute power. And that power should not be wielded by anyone.

The despot

In our own pretty tech ecosystems (read, bubbles), we come upon the idea of power in the form of titles. In some places, the Architect holds the ultimate power over the team and can act as a despot if she so wishes it. And this is accepted, and even a wanted quality in some cases.

Can make hard decisions and take control when the situation calls for it. A real life “Architect” role definition.

I’m not gonna lie, that doesn’t sound too promising. That sounds like a company that’s giving this person the power to reign supreme and actually expects them to do so. And the hard part of all of this, is that for everyone else involved, this authority comes from a title.

Hierarchies

I had a lengthy discussion with a group of friends yesterday on the idea of hierarchies. In my opinion, a hierarchy denotes verticality and the idea of power trickling from the top down. The way hierarchies are introduced in the work place is through titles, also known as seniority.

Seniority is evil. Ok, explicit, prevalent seniority is evil. It creates an uneven relationship where more senior people feel validated and empowered by their title and the juniors feel powerless because of it. And this all comes from a word in front of your job description.

I believe seniority doesn’t automatically translate into chaos and horror. But it takes a lot of work to take that feeling away once it’s been placed on both sides of the spectrum. A company with lots of explicit seniority must always make an effort to remove those positions of power and powerlessness, and that’s just hard work. Unnecessary, hard work.

I’m convinced that people tend to follow those they respect and act as leaders, regardless of wether they own a title or not. I also believe that this can happen organically in a community that allows it. That means, a community that doesn’t install artificial hierarchies from the beginning with prevalent seniority levels.

A system where seniority exists but is hidden and used for the boring stuff like salaries could perhaps combine the best of both worlds, as long as the right people are in it. As with everything lately, it seems like it all boils down to people. Just, take care of people and everything will follow.

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