‘God Syndrome’ and how it affects your organization

One banana skin for the Entrepreneur and Senior Executive is the “God Syndrome” as I call it.

Let me explain. Have you ever played computer games? Amongst many modes in which a user / player can play a game is in the ‘God’ mode. Wikipedia defines this as “In health-based video games, god mode, infinite health or infinite life, is a game mechanic or cheat that prevents a playing character from being harmed, sustaining damage, and ultimately, dying. By contrast, invincibility or invulnerability is a usually temporary instance of this effect, obtainable in games with it as a power-up.” In other words, you are infallible. You cannot make mistakes.

Now converting this to a corporate scenario, the “God Syndrome” is a malaise, mostly from the entrepreneur or a very senior / knowledgeable resource, where (s)he gets stuck in the “I cannot be wrong” vortex. Now you’d say, this can be a good thing; conviction is a positive trait. Right?

Let’s just step back a little. Conviction and the God Syndrome are not the same thing, though an extreme sense of conviction, allied with the power to implement what ‘you’ feel is right, can lead to this sense of infallibility. Especially for an entrepreneur.

You are the visionary, you have the idea, you have got the funding, have built up the organization from scratch… this breeds arrogance. This diminishes, and in time completely erodes the ability to listen. To learn, too. And as we know, the organization that has stopped learning, is the organization that has stopped growing.

Also, this demotivates other innovative people, who one day were attracted to your vision and flocked to work for you…. If you are always right, the only ones in your organization who will live and prosper will be order-takers. The disruptives, the game-changers will either get demotivated, or move out. For the creative and the innovative, a job done well is not enough of a stimulant. Salary, big bonuses are not enough of a stimulant. You, the leader, would absolutely require to let them think on the job, and allow them a platform where their ideas are heard. Heard for the quality of the idea, rather than other factors… rank etc.

Entrepreneurs should be wary of this. At times, all that others in your firm want is to be listened, and to be given their due importance. Listening does not demean the leader, listening makes a leader a better leader. Also remember, most importantly, listening is not the same as buying in. John P Kotter, in his book ‘Buy-In’ speaks about passive agreement, which sometimes is worse than disagreement. You can see disagreement, therefore you can work on it. Passive agreement is a malaise you cannot see. And you, as an entrepreneur would rather have disagreeing voices than passive agreements.

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