Link: “People who can climb the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy they decide to attach themselves to.”

Any discussion of leadership that proceeds, if only in part, through a discussion of Joseph Conrad’s _Heart of Darkness_ has got to be worth the time it takes to read it.

Here’s one passage I like which proceeds through _Heart of Darkness_:

> Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that, like the manager of the Central Station, you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.

Perhaps it will surprise some readers that this comes from William Deresiewicz’s address at West Point in October 2009. One of his observations: after so much success, we have developed a cadre of individuals who think they are leaders because they can answer the same old questions. But they cannot themselves formulate any original questions. That is our task ahead…