Not. Your. Competence.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

– John F. Kennedy

I’ve always liked talking about common sense.  It’s a rare commodity with many people who feel that they can open their mouth to make a comment on a topic they have very little knowledge about.  Common sense, is like a deodorant.  The people who need it most never use it.  And the buffoons who follow these walking mouthpiece of trash? Well, let’s keep it simple – no greater fool than the fool that was fooled by a fool.

It is most tempting to call out people who don’t even know what they’re talking about but have this feeling of entitlement as being experts.  The field of law and medicine, for example, require the most stringent of expertise in order to practice the field.  You cannot even be called an attorney or doctor (of medicine) without the necessary degree and passing the bar/board exam.  Even with these degrees, one cannot generally claim to be the overall expert in a subspecialty field.  In law, for example, the competence of your lawyers will vary depending on their expertise. Taxation, corporate, criminal family,  international law, labor law, etc.  That’s how cases are won.  You get the best.  It’s the same in medicine.  Not everyone can induct anaesthesia.  Not everyone can remove a mass from your breast.  Not everyone is an infectious diseases expert.  Not everyone can perform a heart transplant.  You need to get the best if you want to increase your chances of survival from diseases.

The similarity between the two is that getting the best may be costly. Regardless of our status in life, unfortunately there is a price to pay for getting the best. Unless there are those that are providing their services for free – like free legal aid or free consultation and expert opinions from those that are the best in their profession. The truth is, life’s not fair.

And being at the bottom of the totem pole has its price as well.

So when someone who knows little, or sadly, nothing about medical science totally depends on hysteria or political agenda from a populist standpoint and sows disinformation on issues that he/she does not understand, no one benefits from the cavalcade of bad information.

The incompetent who pretend to know everything don’t understand that their lack of knowledge is damaging and dangerous. It is, tantamount to literally attempting to get away with a crime.

It’s bad enough that the less fortunate citizens are getting the raw end of the deal when incompetent people propagate bad science or laws. Instead of educating the masses into understanding their health or their rights, there are opportunists who utilize the ignorance of the many in order to stir a crowd. All because of personal gains.

Real leaders will always work at educating its people with the right information. As they say, “give a man fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him a lifetime.”

He who looks for advantage out of the gullible, strips out all nobility.

The rise of the incompetent

We have a lot of these.

But they’re usually swept under the rug.  No one minds them.  No one actually cares about them.

They rise above their hubris when an incompetent person is made to lead them.  I say this from experience – whether it is in the academic, political or business stratosphere – when incompetence is appointed or voted into the highest position of that office, the institution decays and eventually dies.

What leads to the rise of incompetence?

Friedrich Nietzsche once said that

They muddy the water, to make it seem deep.

Strategists build on other means to rise to power and fame.  Hire someone who can make you look good, beautiful, insightful, purpose driven or look and feel like the masses and people will adore you.  No one wants Mr. Right or Ms. Morality.  They are a threat to exposing Mr. Incompetent and Ms. Ineptitude.

We live in a society where creating an appealing story for the less educated masses is the rule, rather than the exception.  And this has nothing to do with digital technology.  Time immemorial, we have manipulators and strategists who have forged alliances with their kind of people in order to achieve their agenda.  They have been existence since the creation of man.  Monarchs, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Emperors and other rulers were created by man.  Some, were brought into power because unscrupulous people skilfully and methodically planned it well.

The incompetent leader is chosen form among the substandard lot.  Someone who can easily be manipulated into believing he or she is “great” but at the time subservient to the king maker.  They are unfit and not up to scratch.  Governance from their pulpit is pathetic at best.  And propaganda is their method of choice in leading.  There are no defining moments.  Only building obscure, tangential stories made to deflect the real issues.  When the dust settles after their reign, they would have destroyed an institution, a business, a nation.

Today, the rise of the incompetent is clearer than ever.  Due to the digital age, we are able to document faux pas more rapidly than ever. It’s also the same tool used to create false opinions and stories, fake people or trolls, and fraudulent lives. To lead the gullible, the misguided, the incompetent to the promise land. It begs attention to both the exploiter and the exploitable. And the easiest to captivate with incredulous promises are the naive, the poor, the hungry, the desperate, the dupable, and the incorrigible.

What is unclear is why the reaction to such incompetence is delayed. It’s not that people don’t see the signs on the wall! They do! They actually do.  You see, to the incompetent, when the stories become unreal and by the time they get to realise that they’ve been fooled all along, they’re already confused.  This state of uncertainty is a natural phenomenon.  And it becomes an internal battle – to live with it or go against the flow.  When they realise that they were credulous, they’re unsure of how to react.

First there is denial. Being duped isn’t something easy to live with.  After all, risking a reputation to only realise that you were part of a conspiracy to stupidity isn’t an easy pill to swallow.

Then there is anger.  Unsure of where to thwart the anger at – the disbelief, the disillusion, being manipulated.  The anger is at everyone and everything.  The question lies in how much pride there is to swallow. But that is all the incompetent thinks about.

Bargaining.  The despot will change.  There will be apologies.  There is good in spite of evil.  The boss will finally give that all expense vacation break badly needed because he/she was part of the connivance to the crime.  The incompetent is in shit so deep that he/she will try to wiggle his/her way around in order to justify the end from the means.

And depression sets in.  There is guilt.  An awakening.  And a need to vindicate oneself. Before acceptance. The final act is the liberating one.

But the stages are complicated.  And the incompetent will not be able to differentiate pride from truth. Some would have made and imbibed that world of make believe as being so real that it becomes their way of life till their graves.

Recognising the incompetent leader is easy.  Their knowledge is ludicrously shallow. They don’t bring anything to the table.  Ambitious and proud, they use fear and name-dropping on their road to perdition.  They surround themselves with advisers because they’re afraid that others will expose their inadequacies.  Yet the same advisers they surround themselves with are as incompetent as them.  Because the choice is not based on qualifications.  It is based on alliance.  And fear. They are not fit to lead but they want to. They are easy to manipulate by the puppeteer. Their principles have a price tag. They are, in one word, wannabes.

Once you have an incompetent leader that is endearing to the masses, what evolves can be petrifying.

An alliance of incompetents is alarming.  If we fail to stand up against them, rebuilding an institution is a longer and more painful process.  A lot of truth has been buried in the bag of lies.  Recognising what is true from what was perceived to be true becomes more difficult to discern from the pile of rubble of lies.

History will always be the judge on how we create our lives.

In my travels, I learned about the politics and economy of the various countries and cities I had gone to.  While many of them have reached the pinnacle of being either the most liveable or most industrialised or most envious country to live in, they had their fair share of gaffes in their history.  From corrupt kings to evil queens. From despots to democracies.  Each country had a story to tell.  History was their constant reminder that whatever prosperity they have today, had bad beginnings as well. There are still the incompetents. What place on earth does not have them?

It’s how to contain them and place them in their right places that becomes the challenge.