“Knowing was a barrier which prevented learning. For a few moments he allowed himself merely to resonate, making no demands, asking no questions.”
Frank Herbert

Children of Dune



It seems a that shooting down leaders has become a very popular sport – the popular excuse for it is that they do not demonstrate the leadership expected from them. I always cringe a little when I hear this. I feel that leadership is largely misunderstood. Leadership is not something that a leader does – it is about a relationship – and like any good relationship the responsibility for it is (or at least should be) shared.

I am not sure that in order to talk about “leadership” I am required to first talk about “leader”, but I do think it will give these words a context. To me a leader is someone who can shoulder the responsibility of facing unknowns. I believe that life is a process of evolution and that evolution takes place when known clashes with unknown. A leader facilitates and embraces this clash – the result of which is change.

The trap is now set. Most people, it seems, are not very keen for change (though it may be fashionable and popular to claim otherwise) and simply cannot accommodate it. In almost every area of life there are people who are thought leaders, early adapters, etc. They act as intermediaries – they often spend most of their lives dedicated to some ideas that most people view as crazy, irrelevant or impractical.  Some of these ideas, over a long period of time, become mainstream ideas adopted by large groups of people (often entire societies) as obviously (taken for granted) normal.

An example I keep returning to is jazz musicians from the 40’s and 50’s – who played (at best) to very small audiences while the general public either did not know about them or refused to recognize them as musicians. Today these musicians and their music are insinuated into society & culture – to some they are symbols of greatness, to others just plain “standard” jazz, cultural status symbols, etc. In case your are thinking “yeah yeah”… I give you an opportunity to experience a modern day experience of this process – listen to Ariel Shibolet.

If people cannot accommodate change – what are the chances that they can choose and live alongside an agent of change to lead them? I would guess that a true leader cannot be popular – or let’s take the gloves off – a true leader would have to be unpopular. To lead, a leader would have to make and to put into action decisions that challenge  current and popular paradigms. To lead, a leader would need a society that embraces a leader. Leadership occurs when such a meeting takes place.

Leadership that I have encountered in my life exists in small circles that are dedicated to an artful exploration of specific disciplines. Leadership takes place in the presence of:

  1. Leaders a- people who are masters of holding true to a course in which they believe without deviating from it and without letting leadership cause them to deviate from it. They are unexpected & they are true only to themselves and their calling.
  2. Small groups of people who make a conscious, repeated and passionate effort to be near leaders and are drawn to and inspired by their mastery.

If you want leadership in your life you have to make a conscious effort to create, support and accommodate it. This takes a constant and dedicated practice. Sitting around shooting down leaders will further entrench you in a stagnating existence. But don’t worry – a great thing about a process of evolution is that eventually stagnation will either destroy you or force you into change.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    This is a really good post, thanks for pointing it out to me. I have been trying to collect my thoughts on this idea of leadership as well…I guess I have given up on the idea that a person is or can be a "leader" …I think I see leadership as a type of behavior that exists in a relational or social context. An emergent behavior based property…similar in someway to trust, that is driven by people finding the way to making their unique contribution for the best outcome…so I think there is some overlap in our perspectives on this. Thank you again, I always find some real wisdom and beauty in reading your thoughts here.

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