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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Real Popularity

When we say chocolate cake is popular, we mean that many people like it.  When we say that someone is popular in high school, we mean that an individual because of their attributes or accomplishments is well liked.  When we say that a certain manager is popular, we mean the same.  There is an obvious difference from being popular and being famous or infamous.  Again, popularity attests to approval.  And, in terms of a manager, approval need not mean total agreement with the manager in all their decisions.  The staff can understand that there are hard decisions to make and some outcomes may go against their preferences.  These same individuals however can continue to like the manager—to approve of his attributes or accomplishments.  Indeed that is a fundamental requirement of a good manager—to be able to make unpopular decision yet remain popular.

I think back to when we had the bathroom redone in our house.  The company did a good job and we strongly approved of their work.  But part of doing a good job was invading our home with equipment, noise, and inconvenience.  If they had not done these things, they could not have done a good job and they would not have earned our approval.  In short, though we did not like the invasion of our home, we knew it was necessary given the nature of the situation.

I think most people would like to be popular in this sense.  Not superficially so, where it is based on being unbelievably sweet, nice, and indulgent.  But by doing a good job and all that entails.  The analogies in this regard are many.  For example, we don’t like the idea of having our body cut open, however if necessary we know that this is essential for a surgeon to receive our accolades and approval.

Only politics seems to be the exception.  We like indulgent political leaders and will vote them out of office if they require any sort of sacrifice (other than, of course, going to war).  We will bear any burden so long as it does not jeopardize our theater-size flat screen TV with surround sound.  This gives to politics an eerie cast, a bizarre glimmer of a dreamscape filled with row upon row of one-dimensional standing promises.  Consider what it would do to the manager mentioned in the opening paragraph if he had to study every decision in the light of getting reelected by staff.  Not only would it affect his decisions but also the inclinations of staff.  The fantasy world through mutual collusion could thus threaten to subsume reality.  The answer comes down to an inveterate preference for practical common sense (good results require tolerance of some unpleasantness) similar to our uncompromising dealing with reality in everyday life.  

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