"Soon we shall breathe our last. Meanwhile, while we live, while we are among human beings, let us cultivate our humanity". - Seneca
Speaking of fundraising, and the well managed nonprofit development office, imagine gerbils in cages, a dynamo, and a small wattage bulb. As a manager, the faster the gerbils run, you will quickly see, the brighter the light will shine. By measuring the speed at which each cage spins, and the brightness of the bulb, and with appropriate incentives, you might demonstrate a 25% year on year improvement, by getting each gerbil to run that much faster. Also, by eliminating the bottom 10% of the performers each year, you might get a good annual increase, a series of promotions, and end up with a better world - more light with fewer resources expended.
At bottom this is the ideology of Bridgspan, and so many others teaching the little nonprofits how to grow to scale. What is missing in their analysis is the dehumazation of both managers and subordinates. They as consultants don't feel dehumanized by their narrow education. As MBAs among MBAs, it is all they know, like beaten children who abused themselves expect from others what they happily give - the subservience of leaders trained as followers and managed within a hierarchy.
At the core of Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results, a truly excellent book by Tom Tierney, head of Bridgespan and notable academic, Joel Fleishman, is the terrible paradox that they pass off as a sales point for consulting services. The person at the top, the hyperagent funder, the one who holds others accountable, is accountable to no one but himself or herself. And so Tierney and Fleishman say the ultra-rich must hold themselves accountable and get better every year. For which they need a Coach or Mentor or Consultant. In truth, where in history do we find unchecked power becoming wiser and more virtuous every year? And where do we find other than in the Fool a counselor to unchecked power who speaks moral truth and prevails, as the morally insane Boss gets morally fitter and saner day by day?
I would instance the Stoic Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Yet, has Tierney read The Meditations? Or would he dismiss it, long since, as a detour on the utilitarian, quotidian, and well proven path to Results? As for the Fool counselling a blind and mad Hyperagent we have Lear's Fool, but who in business school would read such a text in a class on Leadership? Business school logic exhalts Leadership, as if Those Accountable Only to Themselves were gods, yet everywhere we find in today's Board Rooms and Executive suites, blindness, self-aggrandizement, sophistry, and corruption. What nonprofit, then, will take the cure of Executive Blindness as the cause to which some funder will hold us accountable?
Actually, I very much enjoy and benefit from the Bridgespan materials, and the openness of their leadership and staff. Their trade (teaching shopkeepers how to run a shop) is limited but they are very good at what they do. On a recent call, having savaged one of their studies, sent to me for comment, their outreach person said, politely, "Thank you for your comments, I will pass them on to the authors." So she, far less than half my age, is the grownup, positioned on the lower slopes of the Commanding Heights, and I am living in a Dumpster, naked as a baby, on the Corner of Wealth and Bondage. She has a career, I don't even have a job. Yet I too, in my moral insanity, feel accountable to no one. I too am getting better every year! I may not be Napoleon but I know several not all in the Madhouse.