The ‘Cheat’ and the ‘Spoilsport’

"You can't play the game if you don't know the rules"

All play has its rules. These rules are a very important factor in the play-concept. Here I refer to Huizinga’s ‘Play Theory’. Within contemporary leadership ideas, with the rules of performance and its ‘staged authenticity’, where the status of a person is measured in terms of visibility and activity, one must stick to the rules of the game. The rules of this play are absolutely binding and permit no doubt. According to the French poet, essayist and philosopher Paul Valéry, no scepticism is possible where the rules of a game are concerned, for the principle underlying them is an unshakable truth. Indeed, as soon as the rules are disobeyed, the whole play-world collapses. The player who trespasses against the rules or ignores them is a ‘spoilsport’.

The ‘spoilsport’ is not the same as the ‘false player’ or the ‘cheat’ because the latter pretends to be playing the play and respecting the rules. S/he takes advantage of the other players’ loyalty to the rules. In contemporary organizations the behaviour of the ‘cheat’ is based on 'postmodern cynicism' as I ‘suspect’ that many leaders and management gurus comply with this behaviour. In the world of organizations, the ‘cheat’ always has an easier time than the ‘spoilsport’. Organizations are much more tolerant of the ‘cheat’ than the ‘spoilsport’. This is because the ‘spoilsport’ destroys the play-world itself. By withdrawing from the play, s/he uncovers the relativity and fragility of the play-world in organizations.

He or she robs play of its illusion – a word that means literally ‘in play’ (from inludere). Hence, the ‘spoilsport’ must be cast out, for he or she threatens the continuation of the play community. The organization is not concerned whether the spoilsport withdraws because s/he dare not stay in the game or because s/he is not allowed to stay. Rather, the organization is unaware of the possibility of ‘not being allowed’ and therefore describes it as ‘not daring’. According to Huizinga, the problem of conscience and conformity is no more than fear of punishment.