[May 3, 2019] Michael Ramirez political cartoons often take on a biting quality when the subject matter hits close to home. In the thumbnail to this article is an older one of his drawings, titled ‘Change,’ that shows an Uncle Sam getting ready to repair America’s image. The cartoon is about entitlement and its destructive influence across the nation.1
The idea that entitlement attitudes are crushing leader development is certainly nothing new. Almost five years ago I wrote about it in an article on my experience with a narcissistic U.S. Army officer.2 I had his Bronze Star medal officially revoked due to the toxic command climate he had created. Leaders lead by example, and the Army leadership had lost confidence in his ability to lead.
Entitlement – a component of narcissism – is growing, especially in our youth. How people develop an entitlement perspective on life is not important here, but its origins help explain where we are today. To oversimplify, the millennial generation was raised to believe they are special; that they will be rewarded for participation and rewarded regularly.
The problem, as I see it, is that entitlement promotes arrogance, devalues experience, and produces an inflated sense of importance; a kind of arrogance. Psychologists will say that these attitudes are a defense mechanism to the real world they have been overprotected from as children. Overcoming this problem is difficult, and I know of no one who has a good answer.
Identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. Many writers, like me, have wistfully pushed the problem to the forefront but we’ve not done anything worthy that could be seen as a solution.
U.S. military leaders are doing something. They are restructuring their leadership development programs to reorient future leaders. This means an increased emphasis on practical experiences to stretch our minds, showing the value of reading, and coaching, teaching, and mentoring. Their point is to push leaders to reach their potential.
To reach our potential is the goal all leaders should possess; otherwise, the leader has lost their standing as an ethical, valuable person. Entitlement means we do not think and that is a horrific consequence of behavior the older generations encouraged. It’s time to take a new path to see the problem for what it is and now to do something concrete to stop it.