What you get when you give power away
Question: Put yourself in the shoes of an autocratic Middle Eastern leader: Let peaceful protests continue and you could easily wind up out of power, like Egypt's Mubarak. Or get tough with the protests and you'll certainly lose popular and international support. What's the best strategy for holding onto power without harming the country?
This article is coauthored by Kenneth Adelman and Michael Useem.
Not that we want any of the autocrats to retain state power. They should all consider packing their carry-on bags for a one-way trip to the Maldives. But if they had wanted create a reputational power, to be long remembered for what they have done for their country rather than themselves, they would have been wise to have given away their state power long before the necessity now of heading for their last flight out.
Here's the irony, with much experience and research to back it up. Giving away is one of the surest ways to gain back. Companies that are more generous with their contributions to the community on average prove more profitable. Managers that delegate more authority to their subordinates acquire more authority with their subordinates. Governments that vest more democratic control in their citizens instill greater support among their citizens.
If the autocrats of the Middle East or anywhere had been thinking strategically, they would have taken such steps years ago, giving away to gain back, not for themselves but for their country's legacy. Had they brought that future into the present, they would not now be needing to purchase the one-way ticket out.
This Shakespeare realized 400-plus years ago. In Merchant of Venice is a contest for the fair Portia's hand. The first two choices emphasize gaining and getting but they prove to be wrong. The third answer demands giving. That's the right answer, and it wins her hand.
Posted by: stephendavid2002 | February 27, 2011 7:07 AM
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