Taleb and the lost age of heroes

I’ve just listened to Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s LSE talk about Anti-fragility. He talks about modern day leaders lacking “skin in the game” – they don’t bear the cost of the decisions they make.

He claims that this is the first time in history where this is normal for leaders, and contrasts it with leaders such as Hannibal who led their armies into battle. It was more important to live honorably than to live long.

It also echoes the sentiments of Lean Startup when it talks about companies that achieve minimal success and lack the strength to pivot. “One of the most dangerous outcomes for a startup is to bumble along in the land of the living dead”. Better for the company to change direction, while staying true to it’s core purpose.

For example, Apple changed direction from computers to MP3 players. Both were true to the vision that creativity can help change the world for the better.

The trouble is that too many companies lack a positive purpose (or even a clear and not-so-positive purpose). Too many companies are controlled by shareholders or directors who lack “skin in the game”.

A noble purpose make success more likely. It motivates people. As it says in Leader’s Dilemma, “Bind people to a common cause, not a central plan”.

It’s not individual heroes we need. It’s heroic teams. Heroic organisations. Heroic missions.

 

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