Congress and Barca: The Reluctance to accept Redundance

03 Sep,2020


By Avik Chattopadhyay


Two events over the last fortnight reinforce a primeval malady of the human race – the inability to recognise becoming redundant in one’s own lifetime. The first was the implosion within the Indian National Congress, exemplified by the letter written by the 23 ‘rebels’. The second was the implosion within Football Club Barcelona, exemplified by their 2-8 thrashing in the hands of Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League.


In both cases, the letter and the defeat were results of the malaise and not the reason. The reason lay deep down within the operation of the organisations, both of which are big brands in their own right. They have rich legacies built on solid contribution over a century for both the Congress and Barca. They boast of big names, big following, global recognition and their own places in the respective histories of politics and sport. Yet both have refused to acknowledge and manage the redundancy staring them in the eyes for quite some time.


In both cases, individuals somewhere became much bigger than the organisation. In fact, they defined the DNA and operating style, the brand being a natural extension of the personality and values of the individual. This is equally true of the corporate world where certain “stars” lead their businesses into the stratosphere by their own vision, drive, opinion and energy. This works very well as long as the core competence of the individual remains head and shoulders above competition and he / she also undergoes periodic refreshment and reinvention to maintain that edge.


When does the malady shows its first signs?

[1] When the organisation’s goals and purpose are completely fused with that of the individual.

[2] When the individual believes there is no further room for improvement.

[3] When the individual is surrounded by people and processes that build the narrative that there is no alternative.


All the three happened in case of both the Congress and Barca.


The Gandhi family and the Congress became fused into one entity. Just like Messi with Barca.


The fused Congress entity believed their thinking and strategizing needed no fresh thought just like Barca thought there was no better way to play the game.


And when the sycophants and ‘dependants’ around the Gandhi family kept reinforcing a false narrative of no alternative leader for fear of their own purging. The same happened with the 30+ club of Pique, Busquets, Vidal and Suarez taking refuge behind Messi for fear of being dropped.


The Congress thought that winning state elections was a sign they were doing things right. Barca thought that reaching the Champions League semis with relative ease meant they were playing with flair. In both cases, the results of today were the outcome of what they did right yesterday. That is no guarantee that the opposition will not decode your strategies and style and break the weakest links tomorrow. In the case of the Congress it was the “younger” leadership that was getting frustrated with the plexiglass ceiling. With Barca, it was their defence led by ageing stars of yesterday who could be outflanked and outrun.


The ability to accept that one’s ‘time is up’ is a rare quality that evades even some of the biggest achievers in history. The refusal to let go of position or power is what leads to disruptions and upheavals. And that finally leads to people being pushed out, overthrown or simply purged. It is one of the fundamental truths of human history.


The same holds true for any brand, in whichever stage of its existence.


You will either be a challenger or a leader. Followers typically do not last for long for their futures are tied with those of others and they have decided not to live their own lives. You may either challenge the leader or convention or behaviour. Or you may lead due to a differentiated proposition, consistent delivery of your promise or constant reinvention. In either case there will be occasions when the organisation as well as the individual needs to gracefully accept an oncoming phase of redundancy and act accordingly. As an individual one may work towards becoming redundant, handing over the reins to the next generation of leadership and performers. As an organisation, whether business, sporting club or political party, one has to gracefully ease the redundant people / processes / practices / products out of sight and give them an honourable send-off.


Each of us carry a “best before” and an “expiry” date. The problem lies in not accepting this fact!

I shall close with the words from a Pink Floyd song called ‘Time’:

“You run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking,

And racing around to come up behind you again.

The sun is the same, in a relative way, but you’re older,

Shorter of breath, one day closer to death…”



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