Many years ago, I was asked for my top 10 movies. Most shift over time, but the top 3 is suspended in amber. Third is The Shawshank Redemption, which I’ve watched at least a dozen times. Second is The Fugitive, with over 25 views. And first is Who Framed Roger Rabbit with more than fifty. It seems like a funny, random list. But in that moment it struck me like a bolt for the first time that they were all about the same thing.
As a white dude who can smoothly “pass” as straight and grew up with strong, educated parents in a very stable environment with a strong safety net, I had the privilege of approaching social power structures however I liked. And I chose deeply irreverent.
When I write about servant leaders or misusing the family metaphor in an organization, I’m doing it from a position of incredible privilege. Most folks do not personally feel secure and safe enough to call out systemic issues. And the rest of us aren’t motivated to call out issues that usually work for us. If you point out things that worked for you and call them bad, the initial response is often incredulity. If you challenge the power of folks who think they earned it and elevate the voices of folks they think haven’t, you get labelled abrasive.
If you really challenge their power, you end up in a world of problems. Getting dismissed from your job is usually the minimum, most predictable outcome.
The movies I listed at the outset are about a false, unjust narrative about an individual, created by people with power who fear its loss. The antagonists have a clear goal that they have decided is best for everyone, so they have no qualms exercising authority however necessary to make it happen because they know best. This mindset is, of course, utter crap. It’s also the default position of many in the corporate world.
The lesson of these stories is the lens through which I strive to check every decision and the narrative for which I most crave a happy resolution. Some folks are primarily motivated by power or at least a sense of forward momentum in the thing they’ve championed. I mostly want to find bullshit narratives anywhere they hide and torch them before they hurt or impede anyone else. I have never come up short wherever I went looking.