[January 5, 2019] “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It goes on to say that these are “unalienable rights” which have been given to all humans by their creator. The best leaders are those who push us toward such common goals (as noted in this phrase) and do this by bringing predictability and productivity to us all.
Humans crave predictability. People have a need for ordering principles that makes the world more logical, routine, explainable, and cooperative. That is why we require rules, standards, values, and follow tradition. This helps us justify life and the predicament that we find ourselves in day to day. Perhaps this helps explain why such depressing ideologies such as communism and socialism remain so popular.
Humans need productivity. This gives us meaning and worth. We are more valued as a member of a group when we get things done; whether it is with the family, community, friends, or any given organization. Productivity means we are resilient to changes that may harm others, reliable as an ally, and thoughtful as a citizen. When things are going to hell in a hand basket, everyone looks to us as the person who can make things happen and get us back to predictability as quickly as possible.
The best leaders among us, it follows, are those that can bring predictability and productivity to a much higher magnitude. We’ve all been around leaders that exude confidence and strength. We are convinced they know the right way and have the resources to get things accomplished; and do so with ease. Strongman dictators are notoriously common and long lasting for precisely this reason.
Not unsurprisingly, there are unpredictable risks and lurking danger in our human needs of predictability and productivity. Professor Jordan B. Peterson warms us of some of these in his recent book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” I gave a short review of the book yesterday (see it at this link). Not unlike the philosophers of the past, he believes the world is wrapped in a chaos versus order struggle; the famous yin and yang symbols of the Taoists.
These are powerful forces that are always prowling around in the background. For leaders to understand the power of human needs means to be capable of harnessing it for the good. Sadly, evil can harness its power too. Thus, the long struggle humanity has faced since the first man walked the Earth.