A great principle to apply when leading or managing any organization is meritocracy. With meritocracy, people are judged by their competence and the content of their character. Some organizations tend to promote people on the basis of longevity and loyalty alone. While those are indispensable traits, focusing on them alone is short-sighted.
Meritocracy includes longevity and loyalty but goes beyond that. It emphasizes character and competence and opens the door to anyone who comes and proves their character and competence to have a fair shot at serving in the leadership of the organization even if they are not part of the founding team. Successful organizations are meritocratic.
It’s important to know that meritocracy doesn’t reduce the importance of longevity and loyalty. To know an organization well enough to effectively lead it takes time. Longevity, therefore, provides an advantage, but only to those who take it to grow and make themselves the best candidate for promotion. Experience by itself is NOT the best teacher, the kind of experience that is reflected upon leading to learning and growth is the best teacher. Also, to be trusted with leadership of an organization, you have to also prove loyal to the organization, its direction, and vision. As such, longevity and loyalty both have their place. They should help those who possess them to be more passionate about the organization. Their passion must drive them to work hard, learn hard, be highly focused on the goals of the organization, grow and become the most competent candidate available to lead the organization. If these individuals are not competent, then their loyalty and longevity are in vain.
Related article: Idea Meritocracy and Radical Transparency at Work
Someone may say, “What about grace? In life, we hardly deserve what we get or get what we deserve. We don’t choose where we are born – either to wealth or in the slums; either to noblemen or crackheads. How can you reconcile the principle of meritocracy with divine grace?”
I would say that meritocracy affirms grace and doesn’t oppose it. Grace provides the rain but only those who labor to plant a crop earn a harvest. Grace provides the opportunity for all. Grace would not give us MD degrees and licenses to see patients unless we have received the training to back it up. Instead, grace would open doors for us to go to medical school and be trained. Grace would not allow us to fly planes if we desired to without appropriate training. The providence of grace will allow us to be alive with enough brains to pursue our dreams of flying planes. Grace and meritocracy work together, not against each other. When it comes to leadership, grace provides opportunities for people to grow themselves to deserve or earn the right to be promoted because they have both the character and competence required.