Gatekeepers are protectors of the status quo. They have little incentive to innovate or move quickly. Rather, their core focus is in mitigating risk. Think of a gatekeeper as a “provider of friction,” occluding leaks and faulty decisions from seeping out of the kingdom.

I think you will find gatekeepers appear in various settings and systems throughout your life. A gatekeeper is not inherently a negative title. They have immense power and responsibility. As you level up in an organization or community, you will likely find or in fact become a gatekeeper in your own right. Gatekeepers have duties, and serve a higher power (the one who appointed them as such position).

I read this tweet the other day that I found to be particularly memorable: “you will never see anyone more angry than when a gatekeeper loses his or her power.”

Imagine you are a protector, but you lose the thing you have to protect. That is what happens all of the time across organizations and teams.

Person X is bestowed a project by the “holy CEO” of sorts. That person did not win the project on his or her own accord, but rather through the political system. Someone else rightfully deserves the project, the data, and the team, but is not given access due to this divide.

What happens?

Over time, the incumbent gatekeeper loses power as the rest of the organization realizes he or she is unfit to lead this role.

“But I was bestowed the gatekeeper opportunity?”

Gatekeepers are keepers of friction as much as they are keepers of valuables. They exist most often in bureaucratic settings – Universities, Government, big companies, etc. – and can be dangerous to the well-being of an organization if they so choose to abuse their powers.

Also published on Medium.