Surrounded by Sycophants

This article on Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, contains an interesting passage:

In her isolation, surrounded by sycophants, Clinton had no one to tell her she was wrong. A few people hinted at warning against some of these problems, but no one had the clout to make the cautions stick. In Clintonworld, loyalty was valued above all else. Anyone in her orbit who objected too strenuously risked crossing the line and paying the price. They fought among themselves, but none of it reached the throne, and none dared risk his place by insisting on a change.

How many catastrophic failures – political, commercial, military, technical – can be attributed to the above? I could reel off half a dozen right now, off the cuff. The amusing thing is that this sort of situation is inevitable in modern organisations given the incentives placed in front of people. Yet if you point this out you’ll be hounded out so fast your feet won’t touch the floor, with those doing the hounding oblivious to the irony. I guess it’s simple human nature, and there’s not much that can be done about it.

In the few instances where I have been trusted enough to manage a project team or department, I’ve made sure I retained a grumpy old sod on hand to point out where I am going wrong. It might be difficult to hear sometimes, but such feedback is invaluable.

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6 thoughts on “Surrounded by Sycophants

  1. People inside Clintonworld might be worried that if they got too far out of line they’d get a bullet.

    I don’t normally pay much attention to the loony wing of Conspiracyworld, but I wonder whether they have a point with the Clintons.

  2. Tim, you write “…there’s not much that can be done about it.”… and then immediately describe what you in fact did do about it, i.e. keeping grumpy old sods around. If you can do it, why can’t others?

  3. mike,

    Good point…but what I did seems to go very much against the natural tendencies of those who get promoted in large organisations. God knows why when you have an office half full of young people with high ambitions and energy but no knowledge while the other half are old and have no ambition left but plenty of knowledge they are happy to share. Egos is my guess.

  4. One of my bosses once said “You are the conscience of this organisation”. Hateful bloody expression. Perhaps he meant ‘I need grumpy old sod like you’.

    A young colleague once told me “You are true Renaissance man”. He had no idea how close he came to an uppercut rather than a putdown.

  5. If anyone within her circle had told Hillary she was an “entitled, charisma free, corrupt excuse for a human being” would she have believed them, or even heard?

  6. How many catastrophic failures – political, commercial, military, technical – can be attributed to the above? I could reel off half a dozen right now, off the cuff.

    Your quote, Tim.
    And you work in O&G? Your outfit must be the best evvveer! I’d need to take my socks off and get a few mates round…

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