Skeptical leadership and CFI drama

I have a huge 3000+ word post over at Canadian Atheist on drama at CFI Canada. If you dislike the messy underbelly of egos and in-group politics, take a pass.

Related to the entire theme though is a recent Dan Gardner article on leadership in isolation. In it he discusses recent studies that have found that we make poorer decisions the more power we get.

The concept can be understood in Darwinian terms. Ideas, like organisms, compete for their environment. A bad idea with a lot of competition will die off, while it may have a better chance if not exposed to variation. I’m not talking about memetics, since we actively select out good ideas when we can contrast them with bad ones.

If a leader is surrounded by yes-men and women who agree with him or her, the landscape of ideas generated will be very small. Meanwhile, when people are able to disagree without fear of punishment, more ideas can thrive and compete.

This is why, regardless of one’s own aptitudes and skills, power corrupts. Everyone is susceptible to it.

Being good skeptics, we need to identify and be aware of issues like this when we design our organizational structures. The root causes of the ongoing CFI Canada debacle are a lack of trust, transparency, and accountability. Without an open exchange of ideas, corruption and acrimony spread.

Such drama isn’t the exclusive purview of CFI and it’s corporate structure. Humanist Canada was embroiled in a strikingly similar controversy a year ago when their board split over the actions of their executive director. HAC seems to be getting back on track, potentially a testament of the ability of the membership to throw the board out and elect a new slate.

I don’t know the perfect solution to these types of divisions. I think there needs to be clear lines of accountability, and a means of dealing with divisions in boards that doesn’t make every issue so personal. I’m wide open to any and all ideas, and I’m definitely willing to try anything to ensure the stability and longevity of the BC Humanists for years to come.