Why Paternalism Kills Startups Part Two

Why Paternalism Kills Startups Part Two

On Monday, I gave a high-level POV on why paternalistic leadership works great for conservative, slow-growth companies where little is changing inside and outside, mostly outside. Of course, this is NOT what we’ve experienced in the past three years in CPG. This is not really how American society works anymore, anyways. Lots of things are changing pretty rapidly.

Rapidly, for humans, it is within our lifetimes. 

The challenge with paternalism is that it is more defensive of the status quo than chasing a new state of existence, i.e., after you triple your sales. 

Employees become children, not independent problem-solvers. Everything requires permission. Initiative disappears because it is punished more than rewarded.

Paternalistic cultures would solve problems really, really slowly unless Papa noticed them. If he didn’t, they fester, and then Papa gets mad. But paternalism doesn’t encourage anyone to surface ‘problems.’ Nope. It encourages them to bury them. 

Paternalism kills autonomy, even in your top executives. They become dependent on you to make every decision.  And, I hate to say it, but today, women are still more likely to sign up for a paternalistic white-collar company and stay there disappointed in exchange for half-baked authority. I’ve worked in one. The ambitious men in these companies tend to leave quickly, nor do they usually become senior executives (through a promotion). Modern, educated men don’t like paternalistic leaders because they value autonomy much more than educated female peers. As recent sociological work has surfaced, paternalistic leaders also consistently undermine female executive autonomy. This is changing with younger generations, but today’s leaders are still mostly 45+. And they’re used to paternalism by now. A lot.

Dr. James Richardson

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