on leadership

September 25-26, 2014

"Leadership" is one of very many big-brush words we all feel capable of using and understanding. And we do. What we do not understand is how we use words like "leadership."

(And, while comfortable with talking of "leadership," we tend to dislike actual leaders.)

A useful question here, as is the case in using all big-brush nouns, is "How should we think | talk about the word "leadership"? I am here not interested in discussing leadership in our contemporary society, but in talking about the usage the the big-brush noun "leadership."

There are no established procedure or vocabulary in talking about the usage of words. "Leadership" itself is an unspectacular word, as easy to dismiss as it is to examine. Very little hinges on clarifications of the word in day to day situations.

Am I particularly interested in talking about "leadership?" No. This analysis may not be as interesting, as it is be exemplary.

Perhaps the choice was grounded in my personal pique at the adoption of yet another overblown sobriquet in the business-speak community. coinciding with a lack of clarity or interest in clarity about its definition. My anger is at the meta-blindness on this and the other big-brush words.

In one sense, What is leadership? is among the many questions that should not be answered. At least not glibly, or simply, or too quickly. It is a question that should not be asked. But we do not have that luxury.
(All big words in common use must be examined.
It should not be assumed there are any (useful)generalizations that apply to all.)

The word "leadership" flows off in several directions at the same time:

  • It is a position of bureaucratic or administrative power. A "boss" is always assumed to be a leader and someone who does or should practice leadership in one form or another.
  • A military leader shows courage and direction under the most existential conditions. Here leadership is admired if not even heroic.
  • A political leader is the person who has risen to a position of political prominence. We speak also of religious leaders, seldom of philosophical leaders.
  • A leader is someone who "leads," to a "place" we want to go or away from a place we don't want to be, or to a place where the leader thinks we should be.
  • There are some who by a variety of techniques, have a gift for making people follow his lead. Sometime a leader leads us to place where we, or a part of use does not want to go.

Leadership advice (such as this example) may be good, nuanced and sometimes useful. But leadership advice is more like relationship advice or relationship counseling than a matter of facts. Giving a university degree in leadership, confuses personal growth in a varied number of contexts, with attainment of knowledge.

Like relationship and counseling advice, leadership advice is highly contextual. One size does not fit all situations.

Recognize this term as purposefully vague and trails down auras that make one feel good. Carrying out orders, or kissing ass to the man. PC upgrading of description.

(1) If we go down this path, leadership is an overblown word, and most people suspect this in most contexts. How many people have worked for a supervisor who was a leader? Or has been in a job that called for any kind of leadership, apart form monitoring, motivating and dealing with life's small emergencies.

(2) What is true, learn contextually This is a sideline view of leadership. If I were in a position.

(3) One reason for people mock all the talk of leadership is that this substitutes a very unheroic task, indeed often a slavish task, for something we feel down deep is important.

We humans are all pre-programmed to lead and more importantly to accept our fate as follower. It begins with following the rules of our parents. We are programmed to be beta males and females, who also harbor dreams of being an alpha male or female. Think only of our mind's fascinations with stories of the hero, and of beating the competition. This forms the basis of so many movie plots and novels, as well as celebrity-worship.

Given the state of current events, it is clear our world needs better leadership, political, religious and philosophical. But of course we disagree, often violently, on the specific policies and beliefs of such leadership.

The opposite point of view, that we may not need any leaders, while more fitting the facts, generates its own fears.

All these mildly disparate threads (hero leader yearning, necessary business management and change, corporate BS) all add a heady flavor when we try to something we might call: thinking about leadership.

The actual use is somewhat contextual, and somewhat loose.

notes . aphorisms . unanswered questions

Leadership is not a job. More a war of evaluating a job.
Can one man lead? We any man can think he can lead?
Since there are courses on leadership, why not courses in attractiveship? "Why yes, I have a masters in attractiveship."
If we have courses in Leadership, should there not also be courses in followership?
What might that involve?
If we have courses in Leadership, should there not also be courses in followership?
What might that involve?
The limits of language, are the limits of philosophy: Where language ends, leadership (as well as coercion, seduction and trade) can take over.
True political leadership would be political suicide.
What is the morality of religious leadership? What is the morality of religious followership?

[ back ]