Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Colonel Moseley on Power and Spin

What ho! Recently I have been mulling over some of life's more daunting questions. Is Countdown quite the same with Carol talking more and doing less tricky sums? Now that we have become accustomed to Des, rather than dear old Richard, how will we cope with yet another new host?

I tend to dwell on these escapist issues and seek solace in a Mr Kipling Country Slice when I'm depressed about the state of the nation.

As you might imagine, as a former Guards Officer and MD of Moseley Engineering, I have no problem with authority. It's just that at the moment, if one believes the Daily Mail, we seem to be governed by an assortment of freeloaders, adulterers, caravanners and as if that wasn't enough - Scots.

None of this makes one inclined to trust those in charge or to have any faith in their view of the world. A lot of my concerns stem from the blind self-confidence of our leaders whether in politics or business. Ever since Reagan and Thatcher, our rulers have tried to show they have what they call "conviction" and "vision". These are very dangerous words when not constrained by common sense or humility.

Today, power is concentrated in fewer hands, is subject to less control and is camouflaged by clever PR. This empowerment of the few is reflected at work as much as in politics and is often obscured by perception management, otherwise known as "spin".

Whether in government or business, many leaders exhibit a range of fads and prejudices which are concealed or made more acceptable by spin; beneath the PR, however, they are often:

1. Fattist: the chief trains and runs marathons. His ambitious lieutenants do so too. The flabby or unfit need not apply for jobs or expect promotion; they are lethargic, self-indulgent, undisciplined and to be despised,

2. Ageist: whilst he is under 50, the boss considers anyone older is a burnt out and exhausted husk, lacking in drive and energy

3. Sports-mad: the captain of the team firmly believes in a healthy mind in a healthy body and the value of team sports. Any male who does not play or demonstrate a detailed knowledge of cricket, football or rugby is suspect and unlikely to progress. An ability to discuss the merits of a flat back four is essential.

4. Ascetic: our leader dislikes food and alcohol. Meals waste time and are an unnecessary interruption of work. Hunger reflects weakness.

5. Upholders of family values: the big cheese has a feisty wife and lovely children whom he adores. He relates best to others with offspring and hardly at all to those who have none or do not loudly espouse what he considers "family values". A "normal" church-going family background conclusively demonstrates the suitability of any individual for virtually any senior or managerial post.

6. Worshippers of youth: until he passes 50, the man at the top is hugely impressed by the vitality of those under 30. Any lack of experience, or judgment is to be ignored and any criticism of younger colleagues dismissed as unduly cautious, defensive and retrograde.

7. Subject to mood swings: the gaffer may shout, bang the table, kick furniture, throw small objects, humiliate and abuse. His apologists point to overtiredness resulting from overwork and dedication. This may be so, but he's also a bully.

8. Prone to tokenism: to counterbalance his capricious dislikes, the supremo likes to adopt and advance the career of the odd unlikely candidate. This demonstrates his originality of thought and brilliant hunches. It often results in an under-qualified individual with no experience being over-promoted. This person is secure whilst in favour, since no sane colleague will wish to be seen to contradict the view of the boss. The consequences may not emerge until the person eventually falls from grace. This can take years and cost a fortune.

9. Sexist: the PR-conscious leader wants to be seen advancing the careers of a few selected women. They are normally the ones who see things his way and do not make waves. In reality though, the proportion of women who climb the greasy political pole or management ladder remains small.

10. Conventional: the head honcho does not approve of attitudes or ideas he does not share or understand. The key to advancement is emulating the mindset and lifestyle of the boss, whatever they may be. Conformity is still the key to the corridors of power and the executive washroom.

So now you know how some of our ruling and managing elite operate. I need another Country Slice. Pip, pip!!

* this article also appeared in Birmingham 13



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