A Syndrome of Selfishness & Managers

A syndrome of selfishness has taken hold of our corporations and our societies, as well as our minds. It is built on a series of half-truths, each of which drives a wedge into society: from a narrow view of ourselves as economic man, to a distorted view of our values reduced to shareholder value, to a particular view of leadership as heroic and dramatic, to a nasty view of organizations as lean and increasingly mean, to an illusionary view of society as a rising tide of prosperity.


1. The rising tide of prosperity- wedge of disparity
2. Lean mean organization- a wedge of discontinuity
3. Heroic leadership- a wedge of disconnection
4. Shareholder value- a wedge of disengagement
5. Economic man- a wedge of distrust

A manager is an Economic man – Economists believe that in the organization suffering from “Syndrome of Selfishness” the managers who are economic men make all business decisions based on monetary value and for their own economic self interest. When managers and businesses purely act in accordance to their individual economic self interest, this creates a wedge of distrust with the rest of society. This one-dimensional view of managers has contributed to selfish individualism. If managers merely calculate their wants, they will end up with a scheming organization. This is a selfish perspective of a business.

Managers should have the courage to confront the faceless, mindless system of individualism, to pursue beliefs as a need, not a want, at the expense of measurable gain.

Managers exist to maximize shareholder value. Corporations are economic entities but they are also social institutions that must justify their existence by their overall contribution to society. Organizations suffering from Syndrome of Selfishness have problems balancing the shareholder expectations to maximum return against other priorities such as customers, employees, and society. Shareholders put up the capital but create little of the value, yet they currently seem to enjoy total power. Shareholder value creates a wedge between those who create economic performance and those who harvest the benefits.

Managers must serve a balanced set of stakeholders. The shareholder must receive a good return but the legitimate attention should be given to customers, employees, communities, suppliers, and society. The balancing of all these constituencies will best serve the interest of the shareholders and the organization.

Managers are ‘heroic’ leaders. Managers suffering from Syndrome of Selfishness think that they are the enterprise and are responsible for the entire performance of the business. They take advantage of this situation and are paid handsomely. Heroic leadership drives a wedge of disconnection between top management and employees, customers and society. Managers who are heroic in real leaders are committed, involved and engaged with their role. They believe in teamwork, long-term perspective and building an organization slowly, carefully and collectively.

The effective organization is lean and mean. Manager fails in their vision, strategy, and tactics but employee takes the fall for this failure. Lean and mean is supposed to lead to lower costs, higher productivity, flatter and more flexible organizational structures, more empowered workers and happier customers. But instead, it often leads to burned out managers, angry workers, and quality losses in the guise of productivity gains. It drives a wedge of discontinuity. Managers are representative of the employee. He is an intermediary between the employee and top management. The manager communicates an organizational vision to the employees of the organization. He should ensure effective communication flow in an organization. There should be a win-win relationship between the employees and the management.

A rising tide of prosperity lifts all boats. Managers believing in this belief drive a wedge of disparity between the beneficiaries of stock price increases and the large numbers of people disadvantaged by the behavior of businesses. Syndrome of Selfishness state that everyone prospers in a selfish economy. Economic development, in turn, will take care of the social development. That’s not true. Managers should know that Real prosperity combines economic development with social generosity. Prosperity is not just economic and cannot be measured by averages alone. It has to be societal too, and that depends on distribution.

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