Batuhan: The last great dictatorship (conclusion)

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, February 7, 2014

KIM Jong-un, Steve Jobs, Fidel Castro, Jack Welch. Which of these names belong together?

At first glance, the collection of names sounds like a strange one to begin with, right? Two of them clearly are from the corporate world, and the other two, from the realm of politics. Not just any group of politicians, mind you, but a couple of dictators at that. So why then am I putting these people in the same category?

If we refer to Wikipedia, we find that “democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”


In contrast, by the same source, “A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic or authoritarian form of government in which a government is ruled by either an individual: a dictator, or a small group of people, as in an oligarchy.”

Notice that the above definitions refer to forms of government. However, if we removed the word “government” from the definitions, and in its place we put the word “organization,” then the reason for grouping the four names together becomes clearer.

In a dictatorial political regime, power is usually concentrated in the hands of one individual, who calls all the shots, and makes all the decisions. North Korea’s Kim comes from the family line of the county’s founding father, and came to power via his family ties, and not his capabilities. There are hardly any checks and balances to his exercise of supreme authority. He supposedly has a parliament, who are not better than a rubber stamp, to say aye to all his wishes and desires. Whatever he says is law.

He decides—as he chooses, of course—to whom and to what extent he delegates his powers. And the people he delegates his powers to often become themselves like little dictators, accountable to only one (the great dictator), and free to act with impunity.

In many ways, major corporations today operate like dictatorships. Everyone who has seen the movie about the life of Steve Jobs can easily see the parallels between the way he managed, and the manner in which Kim rules North Korea. Both ruled with an iron-hand, listening to no one if it did not please them to do so.

Sometimes, dictatorships can result in some good things, as can corporations ruled with an iron hand. Singapore, for all its prosperity today, may not have happened had Lee Kuan Yew not come to power. Similarly, the iconic Apple products may not be around, had it not been for the dictatorial regime of Steve Jobs.

But they can also have disastrous consequences.

North Korea is a basket case. Its people are starving, bereft of even the most basic of human necessities. All because its leaders are drunk with the power they have, refusing to listen to the voices of their people.

Similarly, so many companies are down in the dumps (and some out of existence altogether) after the global financial crisis of 2008, because their leaders were too arrogant to realise the folly of their ways. They started to believe their own legends, which as the old adage says, is always the start of the fall.

Today, corporate chiefs still rule with impunity. They continue cooking up senseless “cost saving schemes” and “efficiency enhancements,” which unsettle their organizations, demoralize their workforces, force their key leaders to leave, and only succeed in increasing, rather than decreasing their costs. Like Kim executing his uncle who was once his ally, they eliminate executives who dare to tell them that they are steering their organizations towards a precipitous cliff.

In the realm of politics, dictatorships are starting to disappear. When Castro goes, so will Cuba’s iron-fist regime. China is already just communist in form, but capitalist in substance. And it is difficult to imagine Kim passing power on to a descendant, with all of the country’s travails.

But what of the “dictators” in the corporate world?

Shall the world of management forever remain as the last great dictatorship?

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 08, 2014.


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