Saturday, November 21, 2009

Being a True Leader

In a wonderful post, "Not Fitting In", David Porter wrote on leadership. He posits that true leaders "don't fit." Yes, true leaders often don't fit, but wise ones understand their surroundings and lead in a way that will both challenge others and bring them along.

True leaders by their very nature are out front, ahead of others. This can be difficult for the leader and follower. It takes understanding on all sides. True leaders lead with wisdom that enable mutual understanding, being by their very nature visionaries.

True leaders provide the best environment of understanding which challenges and fosters others in various degrees. The onus is on them; the outcome is on all.


zorro said...

We don't need leaders in this country. We need better citizens. That's what Thomas Friedman concludes in his Sunday column in the new york times. Here are his concluding remarks.
I could not agree more. Quit blaming everyone else. Even those greedy pigs at Goldman Sacks.

"The standard answer is that we need better leaders. The real answer is that we need better citizens. We need citizens who will convey to their leaders that they are ready to sacrifice, even pay, yes, higher taxes, and will not punish politicians who ask them to do the hard things. Otherwise, folks, we’re in trouble. A great power that can only produce suboptimal responses to its biggest challenges will, in time, fade from being a great power — no matter how much imagination it generates."

Judith Ellis said...

"We don't need leaders in this country. We need better citizens."

I could not disagree with the first part of this statement more. "Without a vision the people perish." Just because there are leaders that do not do what is right does not mean that leaders are not needed. Because someone makes the most money or has the largest company does not automatically make them leaders.

The essence of the post focuses on "true" leadership. I also think you conflate blame with the demand for change. This is responsible citizenship. Yes, citizens need to be active in the democratic process, but it also unlikely that they will do so without leadership. People went to the polls during the last elections because they were motivated to do so by leadership. Leadership is needed everywhere, for it is the vision that matters.

Even among citizens leadership is needed. But we need not wait for leaders to arise. We need to act individually and collectively in our democratic process. Often times leaders arise in our very midst and this voice is not what any of us would have imagined.

Regarding Goldman Sachs, I will continue to write about this company here and elsewhere until I see real change. It is also necessary that citizens write letters to their congresspersons and call them to express their discontent and demand change, all of which I have done. Have you?

Just from reading the Friedman quote you seemed to have taken a leap that perhaps he did not even take. I agree with the essence of the quote. But from reading it, it does not conclude that "We don't need leaders in this country." Leaders are visionaries. Without them science, the arts, technology, politics, etc., would be wanton. I agree with the quote but do not agree with your take on it.

I'll look for the full article online.

John O'Leary said...

Uh, maybe we need both? I've never witnessed a dumber electorate or dumber leadership in the US. The health care debate, to take just one example, makes Americans look like buffoons to the outside world.

Hey, cool line, Judith: "the onus is on them; the outcome is on us." Methinks you might have a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th in your case) career as a speechwriter.

Judith Ellis said...

"I've never witnessed a dumber electorate or dumber leadership in the US."

Oh, John, I laughed aloud at this statement. (I guess I should have cried.) If this is so, this is particularly why campaign financing is necessary. I do believe, however, that people in general are followers in that they do not take the initiative to act or create unless they are encouraged or prodded.

Even those in Washington are probably followers, namely followers of their own ambitions. This is probably why many politicians can be easily controlled and the manipulation of the people through television ads, bills, and billboards more easily accepted. True leaders are not swayed by self-interests.

We are largely followers. This is even more egregious when leaders do not lead justly or with the people best interest. (Lieberman almost made me literally barf talking about his conscious. I guess he allowed for the vote on the floor after all.) But you know that saying: the people get the kind of leader they deserve. There is no scapegoat in that saying. The responsibility then is on all of us. There is no doubt that we need both. But I agree that we can't just sit around doing nothing, waiting for a leader. We need to act. Leaders will arise.

Glad you liked the line, John, and happy for the vote of confidence. :-)