On the walk in, I thought of Livy, of networks, and of hierarchies.

I thought of Samuel Doe, the Liberian that brought an end to the brutal True Whig Party and brought in his own brutal regime, and of Emperor Bokassa, who once spent a third of his nations budget on his coronation. They each grew up physically, yet never had a chance to develop fully as whole people. And because they were leaders, the societies they led never got the chance to develop either.

Are systems really that sensitive to leadership? Can it really be that institutions are that sensitive to the development of their leaders? The thought rocked me for a few minutes, and then subsided into an ashen aftertaste. Here are some bits.

Two ideas, two forces, are always at odds. Hierarchies value status quo, reliability, and the faithful driving of optimization throughout the checklists. Leaders who sit upon stable institutional hierarchies are often frustrated by just how resilient they are to change, or they very happy and complacent that they have a pretty sweet job. (Don’t rock the boat, serf.) On the other hand, institutions are organized anarchies, noisy places where agents are continuously trying to disrupt the status quo within their networks. The peasants are revolting, get’em. These contradictions create a lot of dissonance.

Leaders can create a lot of security. And when they do, the social capital within their hierarchy, or within their network, develops. Leaders can also create an awful lot of insecurity. And when they do, they can destroy an awful lot of social capital. Perhaps both networks and hierarchies can be stabilized or disrupted by the types of leaders those systems create? And perhaps, maybe, it’s a good thing that such systems are as sensitive to leadership as they are. Do they create security?

What do you think?