Thomas Jones


This conversation is closed.


Do we need leaders?

If so, why?

If not, why not?

Assuming we do need leaders:

- what are the attributes of a good leader?

- what responsibilities do leaders have?

- what responsibilities do followers have?


There are many kinds of leaders. We have civic leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, industrial leaders, community leaders, public intellectuals; leaders in companies, families, clubs, schools, and even leaders in criminal organizations. There are fashion leaders, coaches, trendsetters, cult leaders, and so on. All of them exert a degree of leadership.

Some of them have legal power (Hu Jintao, Barak Obama;) some have vast resources at their disposal (Bill Gates, Carlos Slim;) and some have no formal position but wield enormous moral power (i.e. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mother Teresa.) Some "popular leaders" like Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey exert their influence and charge for the privilege.

What sets all these leaders apart from the rest of us?

What can we learn from them, individually? And what can we learn from the fact the leadership role exists at all?

[Anything even remotely connected to leadership is allowed in this debate.]

Closing Statement from Thomas Jones

Thanks to all of you who contributed to this conversation. I hope you enjoyed it. I did.

My last post offers a short synopsis of what we discussed.


  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: Hello Thomas,

    Which is stronger: 1) A herd of Bulls lead by a lion
    2) A herd of lions lead by a bull?

    Great leaders achieve great aims even if the people he leads are weak
    While bad leaders won't make use of the power of the people he is guiding, so they will definitely fail or fall.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Hi CTP,

      That reminds me of another of my favourite quotes:

      "No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings." - Peter Drucker
  • W T

    • +2
    Dec 15 2011: Here is a quote I have shared with friends who are leaders:

    "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Tao
  • thumb
    Dec 27 2011: Fr. Thomas,
    Every spare part in a car has its own importance in taking it ahead and the one part which actually manouvers the car is the 'Steering wheel'.

    Leaders are like 'steering wheel' of the society, community, nation etc. who direct or guide they would want to see their fellow beings. Now just for a minute lets imaging this car of ours has life and every part in the car is respecting the steering wheel as their leader.... now whether the steering wheel would take them to a Church (or some good place) or lead them to a ditch .... will all depend on the steering wheel.

    So two lessons to be learnt... have good leaders and follow them.... else be a good leader and be the change that you would like to see in others and lead by example.
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: I once read a childrens story of the Emperor and the Sheppard. One day the Emperor was riding from one town to the next in his carriage with his soldiers. He asked to stop and rest beside a stream next to a meadow. In the meadow were some horses and near by was a young sheppard tending the horses.The Emperor asked if he could sit with the sheppard and talk ,yes said the sheppard. After a few minutes the Emperor asked the sheppard what he would do if he were Emperor. The sheppard replied I am just a lowly sheppard what do I know about being an Emperor.The Emperor asked again . The sheppard said I do not know how to be an Emperor. I am just a sheppard. as a shepprd I come here everyday to look after the horses , I take them to the water and I make sure to move them from meadow to meadow so they will have fresh food.and if wolves come I protect the horses with my life. This is all I know said the sheppard . then he asked the Emperor, is this like being an Emperor. The Emperor did not reply....
    • thumb
      Dec 16 2011: Nice story. I like it.

      Do you believe the Emperor's subjects "needed" a shepherd?
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: I am reticent about bringing this up but I find it fascinating: The Tim Tebow Thing. A little history: He is a quarterback in the NFL who is winning games illogically, who, though outrightly Christian, seems to take a different attitude about winning by not saying it is God who intervenes. What he does do, however, is pronouce his faith before every interview and prays openly on the field.

    From what I understand, he leads by faith in himself and his teammates. And with a determination to win! It reminds me that I do not see this kind of leadership elsewhere. This unique quality of instilling one's faith (courage, optimism, etc.) in those with whom one intereacts.

    Leaders instill those qualities in others that are necessary for success. Tebow seems to have this intangible ability to do so.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Hi Lynn,

      Thanks for the "Tim Tebow Thing." And thanks for explaining it (I live in China, do not follow sports or mainstream news so would not have known what the "Tim Tebow Thing" was without the explanation.)

      Are you saying it is his declaration of religious faith that motivates his teammates to win games?

      If so, do you see this as more effective leadership than, say, the leader who simply declares his faith in the teams ability?

      Or are you saying it is his declaration of faith (regardless of its motivation) that is the catalysts for his team's success?
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: To your first question: No, I don't think so. To your third question: It's more than just a declaration but 'regardless of motivation' is important here. I think one could be an atheist on Tebow's team, and yet feel quite comfortable to be inspired by him even though he declares his inspiration through religion. He appears to be a hard working, kind, generous, optimistic person.

        Perhaps it's an inclusive, humble confidence?
        • thumb
          Dec 16 2011: So, in a way, he inspires people, some of whom may not be religious, by his example of hard work, kindness, generosity, humility, and optimism. That his actions are grounded in his faith is not really the motivating factor ... at least not insofar as playing football is concerned - some just follow him because he's motivating.

          Would someone who demonstrated the same qualities without the foundation of religious faith be as effective, do you think?
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Yes, someone could be as effective without the foundations of religion, but not everyone can lead from a specific religious place as well as Tim Tebow without alienating those of differents beliefs.
        • thumb
          Dec 16 2011: So a part of his leadership ability is he draws on his own personal inspiration, his faith, and uses the strength it affords him to motivate others without having it become a barrier.
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Yes. And thank you for the discussion! It has been good for me to put into words that which I have been observing and pondering.
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: If a team can work as well as the team leader is in when the team leader is out, the leader is a good leader. the ability of adjudgement is most important, you know the decision must be right. I trust you know this old chinese quote"one boy is a boy , two boys half a boy , three boys no boy"---一个和尚有水喝,两个和尚抬水喝,三个各尚没水喝。
    A team need a person make everyone working together and towards one direction. everyone has their own opinion, how to make all of them satisfy the finial decision.
    regarding the follower, if you choice this team, this leader, you should take all of the order from your leader however if you want, we call it obey ability like the soldier.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Hi Kevin,

      Yes, I agree, a good leader will "empower" a team to work independently of the leader.

      And there may be times when it is necessary for a leader, or any other member of the team, to issue orders (this is sometimes necessary for legal or logistical reasons) but, in my experience, every time an arbitrary order is issued, there is a price to pay: The team becomes weaker.

      I had not heard the "one boy is a boy..." quote before. Xie xie.
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: A good leader, isn't aware they're leading anyone, until people start asking him or her questions... Up until that point, they just thought they were in the process of accomplishing a goal. "I'm going here, to talk to this assembly member"... "Well, why are we going to do that?"... "Who the hell is we?"... Just my opinion.

    I would actually disagree with you a bit on ego. I think a leader needs to have a healthy ego... but it needs to stem from a sense of purpose. A great leader has a large ego maintained, through having accomplished, passionate, visionairy, noble projects, with his coworkers, and feeling a true sense of love and respect coming from them. A terrible leader has a large ego maintained by how many people answer to him, and how far they're willing to go to accomplish their goals. Both styles are very powerful, and I would actually argue that egoless leadership cannot combat the terrible kind on its own.

    I think a large problem we have, is that intellectual leaders, aren't encouraged to develop a bit more of the healthy kind of ego, to combat all the terrible leadership out there. I wish more leaders that "emerged when they had vision and passion", after accomplishing their goal, would try to utillize their power structure and influence, to accomplish another likeminded effort, so that the collection does not dissolve. But, as they say in "Hero", "the greatest test of a samurai, is knowing when to lay down his sword." If that leader doesn't have another passion project to work on, it makes sense for them to fade into the background. If there is still a great injustice for him or her to fight, lead on.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: QUOTE: "A good leader, isn't aware they're leading anyone, until people start asking him or her questions... "

      You see leadership as a bit of an accident? Someone is doing something and suddenly realizes he or she has "followers?"

      But then you say you wish leaders "would try to utillize their power structure and influence, to accomplish another likeminded effort, so that the collection does not dissolve."

      You also say "great leaders" are needed to combat "terrible leaders."

      Do you think a "great leader" could (or should) be an "accidental leader?"

      I like your idea about a healthy ego. I agree we need ego to accomplish anything (leader or not.) It is what allows us to say, "I will do this."
      • thumb
        Dec 18 2011: I think what I'm trying to say is that, a good leader, emerges while trying to solve a problem. They're the "person to talk to", the "workhorse", the "one to ask", etc., and slowly people are not necessarily following them, but looking up to them. Some sort of event, or challenge pushes them to have to actually use that credibillity, to lead people towards a solution, but as Bob said, that person often fades into the background when the problem is actually solved.

        They didn't want a promotion or power, they wanted to solve the problem, and now that it's solved, they're happy to go back to their previous role. I think great leadership emerges in the same way, but it takes a bit of that healthy ego I'm talking about. As, the person sinks back into their role in the organization, they continue to think... "Hey, I did pretty well under pressure last time... People seem to respect me. I wonder if there are any other problems we could solve together."

        To me that's the dividing line though. It's just as easy to think "I wonder what else these people would be willing to do for me"... and that can be terrible. I wish society was doing a better job of feeding into the healthy ego, and ignoring people who have the more menacing kind, but often it's difficult to tell the difference.

        I think in order to defeat all of the terrible leaders out there, we as a culture, need to embrace more of our "workhorses", "trainers", and "people to ask", because those are the people we really want leading us. I worry, that if we don't ecourage, healthy and strong ego's in those types of people, we'll be doomed to terrible leadership.
    • thumb
      Dec 24 2011: Hi David. You wrote: “I think a leader needs to have a healthy ego...”

      I consider the terms “healthy” and “ego” to be contradictory. My definition of ego is viewing ourselves as larger or more important than others. Without ego we can recognize our needs, potential and gifts without over-emphasizing their value or diminishing the importance of anyone else.

      Focus on ego uses up time, energy, and perceptual space. I like to think in terms of “me” frames and “us frames. A leader in a “me” frame is constantly aware of his/her position and authority. Dwelling on past accomplishments takes one’s mind off the task at hand and can contribute to a false sense of confidence.

      An “us” frame is larger and more flexible. We have access to more information and a broader understanding of our surroundings “Us” frames allows us to see our connectedness and interdependency. They provide space for exploration and reflection. Problems become easier to solve because we are able to more fully understand where they came from and how they can be addressed to bring about lasting solutions. Being free from the effort of promoting and protecting a self-image makes it easier to make mistakes and learn from them. It becomes easier to ask forgiveness and to forgive. We recognize limitations, resources, and opportunities.
      • thumb
        Dec 24 2011: What would you call it, when your sense of self, comes from being "us" centered? What would you call being proud of yourself, for your ability, to listen to conflicting views, and find workable solutions? Can't you be proud, and have a healthy ego, because you know that you don't think about "me" all the time?
        • thumb
          Dec 24 2011: You raise some interesting questions, David. Allow me to respond to them one at a time.

          You asked “What would you call it, when your sense of self, comes from being "us" centered?

          I would call that humility.

          You asked “What would you call being proud of yourself, for your ability, to listen to conflicting views, and find workable solutions?”

          I would call that a limitation in my ability to listen fully. Pride focuses us on past accomplishments and creates a blind spot, making it more likely we will miss opportunities for optimum solutions in the present.

          You asked “Can't you be proud, and have a healthy ego, because you know that you don't think about "me" all the time?”

          I believe the thinking about “me” limits me. If I think about me all the time, I limit my potential a lot. If I think about me some of the time, I limit my potential some.

          My goal is to see as clearly as possible. I have found my vision becomes more limited whenever I shift focus to myself. Letting go of ego allows us to “get into a zone,” to merge with the present moment and spontaneously respond to the needs and opportunities at hand. This is when I do my best work. The flow seems to end whenever I start to think about what I am doing. When I reflect on times when my work is inadequate, it is consistently when there is a “me” in the frame.

          Putting “me” in the frame, blocks something else out. Truly great leaders such as Ghandi, Nelson Mandella, Bishop Tutu and Vaclav Havel consistently maintained an “us” frame with little evidence of ego.
      • thumb
        Dec 24 2011: I agree with you up to a point... but I worry, still that... You have a self... In order to effectively do anything in this world, you must also take care of your body and mind, so that you can continue to do work. Part of that, I would suggest, involves happiness, part of happiness is pride, and confidence, ego.

        I almost worry that you're suggesting that good people can't ever enjoy their accomplishments... That seems unfair to me, because evil people enjoy their failures all the time, so is there no incentive to be good in this world? Are you not even allowed to like yourself after you sacrifice an entire life to others?

        It just seems like if it's not healthy to have a little bit of an ego, about devoting your life to others... then only evil people can be self confident and happy. I think that dooms us to defeat. I would also argue that Mandella and Ghandi, seemed to have an incredibly powerful ego, and sense of pride. Can you really believe that leading a hunger strike, will defeat the British Empire, without having an incredibly over inflated sense of self? I just think Ghandi's sense of ego, and sense of self, came from being us centered, so we don't call it ego, as you said, we call it humillity. I think i'd just rather believe, that Ghandi was very proud of himself, then that he died, still thinking he was nothing but a spec of dust in the wind.
        • thumb
          Dec 26 2011: Ego is one of those words that has multiple meanings: one meaning is an inflated sense of oneself; another is the part of the psyche that "mediates" between the unconscious and conscious mind. A third is our "sense of self."

          We need an ego to function but there are times when our sense of self seems to disappear in what Bob refers to as "the zone" or "flow."

          This state, in my experience, comes from focussing on the task at hand (whatever it is - a job, a sport, etc.)

          My sense of what Bob is saying is that if we focus on self-aggrandizement when we do our work, we will perform suboptimally and will not be "true" leaders.

          When we refer to pride and enjoyment in our work, I believe if this emerges as a consequence of our actions, it is a natural and healthy part of working. However, if we strive for recognition and acknowledgement, again, it is possible we will not perform optimally. Our focus will be off.

          Some of us would rather be the captain of a losing team than a player on a winning team.


          I find this discussion interesting because there are many different styles of leadership, and depending on how we define "success," lots of them seem to work.

          Can we imagine two more different styles than, say, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett? Gandhi and Churchill? Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping?
        • thumb
          Dec 26 2011: David, you wrote: “ you must also take care of your body and mind, so that you can continue to do work.”

          Ego involves dwelling on how well you might (or should) be taking care of your body. Ego creates mental habits that interfere with taking care of mind. We maintain health best by recognizing it’s value and importance. Ego has a tendency to either undermine it (guilt) or exaggerate it (eg body building).

          You wrote: part of happiness is pride, and confidence, ego.”
          I would argue that happiness is being fully in touch with our nature and surroundings. It involves balance and connection. Pride, is past-based focus on self. It is a distraction that can lead to missing important input.

          You wrote “I almost worry that you're suggesting that good people can't ever enjoy their accomplishments...”

          Enjoying and being in tune with the process is much more valuable than reflecting on the past. Better to reflect on the past with a clear mind so we can also learn from our experiences. It is when we believe we are the “good people” that we are most likely to act in ways that are harmful to others.

          You wrote “is there no incentive to be good in this world?”
          Incentive is only needed in an ego-dominated environment. As we transcend ego, what needs to be done simply becomes clearer and incentive is irrelevant.

          Are you not even allowed to like yourself after you sacrifice an entire life to others?
          “Liking oneself” involves seeing oneself clearly. Sacrifice is also an ego-centered term. Letting go of ego allows us to simply do what is needed. I would also argue that Mandella and Ghandi, seemed to have an incredibly powerful ego, and sense of pride. Someone asked Ghandi if he were ambitious. He replied “I am the most ambitious person in the world. I want to be absolutely nothing.”

          What you describe as effects of a “powerful ego” can best accomplished by simply seeing clearly. Ego obstructs our vision, compassion and understanding. Pride feeds ego.
      • thumb
        Dec 27 2011: I think part of our disagreement, may be that of a Freudian understanding of ego... To me, what you describe as ego, Freud would describe as the id, or pleasure seeking sense. The ego, in Freuds mind was the answer to the id. It was what made us think about long term pleasure and satisfaction, but for, pleasure and satisfaction.

        An example would be a man trading his id desire to sleep with every attractive woman he sees, for an ego centric desire, to maintain a long term healthy sexual relationship with one woman he loves. He does this for his sense of self. He does this so that in his own mind he can like the person he is, and feel good about raising a family, and treating a woman, as he would like to be treated...

        Sometimes I actually even use the word ego, when what I'm really describing is a super ego. A sense of moral long term purpose, that is not even loosely related to the id and expects absolutely no pleasure to come from his long term goals.

        I think Ghandi summed up what I'm trying to say quite well, when you really think about it. "I am the most ambitious person in the world. I want to be absolutely nothing"... That takes confidence to say, it takes a strong sense of purpose...

        I also have issues with "As we transcend ego"... That's like saying, that it's a natural process for us to stop believing that ourselves exist. What would be the purpose to living any human life, if one is meant to denounce the simple fact that it exists? I would argue that with no sense of self, there would be no, what I would call "emotional happiness"... Basically, our ids, would never be validated at all... That sounds like a form of slavery to me.

        "Pride is past based focus"... It doesn't have to be, we can be proud of who we are in this moment right now...

        "It is when we believe we are the “good people” that we are most likely to act in ways that are harmful to others."... Don't evil people already think they're good? How do we compete without selves?
        • thumb
          Dec 28 2011: Hi David, I think you are right. I do not think of Freud at all when using the term ego. (I believe his unfounded, unscientific theories created a huge obstacle to understanding human nature). I think of ego as a component of narcissism, a focus on "me" that crowds out our perception of others as well as the effects of our actions.

          You wrote "Pride is past based focus"... It doesn't have to be, we can be proud of who we are in this moment right now..." Pride is based on reflection. We cannot reflect on the present moment (this could be a Zen Koan) If we are focusing on pride or who we are, we are distracted from what is happening at this moment....
      • thumb
        Dec 28 2011: I feel I diverged way too much from the topic, and if you don't mind, I would like to present you with one last question... Would you agree that people who like being followers, like following egotistical people? For, I think that was what I was really trying to get across... The topic was leadership, not ego.

        How can you expect anyone to follow you without lauding, and being proud of your own accomplishments? I think this often, when I look at the election of Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter... I don't think many people, even conservatives, would argue, that Jimmy Carter was in fact, the better man... In terms of moral humanity... He's the only president to win a Peace Prize for work done outside of office.

        I would argue that Carter lost to Reagan, because he didn't have enough ego. He couldn't convince followers how important the peace between Egypt and Israel was. He couldn't convince them, that gas was supposed to cost more money, because we weren't supposed to be trading with Theocrats. He couldn't convince them that cheap products, weren't worth abusing Chinese human rights. He may not be a perfect example of a great leader, but I would argue that he was a much better leader, than his own ego, would lead his followers to believe.

        He didn't have the swagger. I wish more good people had the swagger George Bush, and Ronald Reagan have, because you need that to win over followers.
        • thumb
          Dec 30 2011: David wrote "Would you agree that people who like being followers, like following egotistical people?"

          "People who like being followers" is a pretty broad category. (I would use the term participant) People participate in causes that they identify with. I suppose there are those who follow to feed off the ego of another (fans of Paris Hilton) but I don't really understand much about that.

          There was another conversation on ego that you might be interested in reviewing

      • thumb
        Dec 29 2011: Also, I think you'd be surprised to find that I mildly agree with you on Freud. He easily may have caused more destruction, than creativity... but he is still the man who made the use of the word "ego" popular, so out of respect for that, I think it's important to use the word, the way he meant it to be used, rather than the exact opposite.

        I think part of your distaste for Freud, may be the fact that you've heard the Cliff Notes version... which has become incredibly popular. He was nowhere near as nihlistic or pleasure centered as he's made out to be. Sometimes an eccentric makes bold, almost crazy statements to maintain his popularity, and those remain, while his hundred page books explaining the crazy statements, fall to the wayside.
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: When I facilitated an empowerment program for people in poverty, I found that the best leaders emerged when they had vision and passion for a particular project. Once the project was implemented they pulled back from the leadership role. Those who said they wanted to be leaders never generated any energy.

    I have had the unfortunate experience of working under a number of very poor leaders in the human services field over the past 35 years. They wanted to become leaders but had no vision or passion for the work except to avoid mistakes and control staff. Ego and control seemed to be the primary factors influencing their leadership. I see these as the exact opposite of passion and vision where one sees through a frame that extends far beyond oneself and gladly accepts input and energy from others who can contribute to that vision.

    I believe leadership is best when it is temporary. People who stay in leadership positions (in my experience) tend to become more isolated from the actual work that needs to be done, especially as their power and income increases.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: So vision and passion contribute to "good" leadership which you see as temporary - leadership being provided only as long as it is needed. And ego and control contribute to "bad" leadership.

      I like this expression: "I found that the best leaders emerged."

      And this: "I believe leadership is best when it is temporary."

      As this is a debate, let me challenge your suggestion that vision and passion might be "enough" to define good leadership.

      I have met many passionate and "visionary" people ... but their passion and their vision were, let's just say, not grounded in reality. They would have been poor leaders in the conventional sense.

      Do you see the role of leadership residing with one or two people who emerge as leaders? That is, when one leader leaves, do you see the need for another to take his or her place?
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Thanks for the feedback Thomas. Allow me to clarify.

        By vision, I mean clear vision, not a dream or fantasy. This takes into account obstacles and opportunities and involves a realistic assessment of resources and needs. By its very nature, it is grounded.

        I also view passion as being grounded. It is very different than excitement which is often short sighted and short lived. Passion is enduring energy that provides the impetus to deal with obstacles and conflicts effectively. Passion involves patience and perseverance. It is a realization of the essential worth of the endeavor and the need to do what is necessary to make it happen.
        • thumb
          Dec 15 2011: Got it: Vision is more than a fantasy or dream; and passion is more than excitement. Both are grounded.
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Thomas wrote "Do you see the role of leadership residing with one or two people who emerge as leaders? That is, when one leader leaves, do you see the need for another to take his or her place?”

        We operated under a model called “Leadership without Authority.” We had a facilitator (me) who kept things clear and grounded but authority rested with the group as a whole making decisions by consensus.

        I believe power is an essential problem in leadership. There is too strong a temptation to use it inappropriately or to focus on holding onto or increasing it. Few people have the maturity to use power wisely and those least likely to use it wisely tend to be those who strive the hardest to attain it.

        I believe the entire structure of management needs to be rethought. The nature of a hierarchy is such that the vision and understanding of the leaders become more abstract and removed from the daily reality of the tasks at hand as one moves up the organization. Having someone who can clearly be blamed creates one who tends to focus more on avoiding blame rather than doing their job.
        • thumb
          Dec 15 2011: QUOTE: "We operated under a model called “Leadership without Authority.” We had a facilitator (me) who kept things clear and grounded but authority rested with the group as a whole making decisions by consensus."

          What happened when "the facilitator" left?

          If I recall, the project was eventually shut down by outside forces but, before that happened, how did the departure of the facilitator affect the operation?
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Thomas Jones wrote "What happened when "the facilitator" left?"

        Program facilitation was turned over to a human service agency who (in hindsight) were stuck in a traditional, hierarchical leadership structure, and dealt with uncertainty with ego and control. They did not follow the training manual that had been prepared for them and actually charged the people in poverty $3000 per month for facilitating the program (previously the facilitator generated his own income through grants and training) The program generated enough income through patron run businesses to be self-sufficient but not to support the agency. Assets crucial to continuing operation were sold off and the program essentially disintegrated. It still exists on a very small scale but has little resemblance to the previous model.

        I have a lot of confidence in the model but empowerment requires a facilitator who is not influenced by ego and control.
        • thumb
          Dec 15 2011: QUOTE: "Program facilitation was turned over to a human service agency who (in hindsight) were stuck in a traditional, hierarchical leadership structure, and dealt with uncertainty with ego and control."

          So transitions are important?
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Thomas Jones wrote "So transitions are important?"

        We planned a two month transition but everything changed the day they took over facilitation. I think they had big ideas about replicating the program without really understanding how it worked, All seemed to go smoothly until the day they took over, then all communication stopped.
        I take responsibility for my role in choosing the new facilitator. Clearly I trusted them too easily. This is a long and complicated story. Hard Times Cafe was the lead agency in our county's successful application to be a federal enterprise community. When the possibility of big money became evident, the politics became very ugly
    • W T

      • +1
      Dec 15 2011: I'm popping in to share the following:

      I have worked with passionate visionaries who have had leadership forced upon them. They have emerged as leaders because of their outspokenness....and their deep knowledge and wholehearted devotion to a cause. However, because they lacked leadership skills, they quickly resigned and moved on. They didn't know how to supervise and exert their leadership.

      But I can see when it is a group working on a project, that a leader will emerge.....and everyone follows willingly. However, when titles and salaries are involved, the passionate visionary who is promoted and who lacks leadership skills will quickly drown.

      Passion and vision is good to have if you have leadership skills. But in and of itself they alone are NOT enough for taking a leadership role. That is my humble opinion.

      I hope I made sense:)
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Mary wrote "However, when titles and salaries are involved, the passionate visionary who is promoted and who lacks leadership skills will quickly drown."

        Sometimes they drown, sometimes they get promoted.

        Titles and salaries feed the ego, which in my mind is a significant obstacle to effective leadership. Ego blocks clear vision and time and resources spent feeding it take away from the task at hand.

        I use the term vision to mean seeing clearly. In my experience, when one sees clearly, the skills needed to complete the necessary tasks either emerge or are developed.
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Hi Mary,

        So what you are saying is that passion and vision, are not effective without skills. Skills that might be included in, or emerge from, the "grounded" elements Bob includes in his definition of the terms. Without the necessary skills to "lead" people with passion and vision might "drown." (Or as Bob says "get promoted" ... aka The Peter Principle.)


        I like your Lao Tsu quote. It's one of my favourites. The version I have is translated as:

        The wicked leader is he who the people despise. The good leader is he who the people revere. The great leader is he who the people say, 'We did it ourselves.' – Lao Tsu
        • W T

          • 0
          Dec 15 2011: Hi Thomas,

          Yes, you understood my comment completely.

          Basically, I have never seen the leader who is passionate and a visionary be concerned with money, titles, or promotions....of course there are some who are great liars, and fool people into thinking they are passionate for the work, when their passion is for money, and their vision is of their bank account with six-digit deposits. Money and power corrupt. Humans are imperfect beings, and so even the best of human leaders can be corrupted into changing their passion and vision for $$$$$$.

          This line of conversation is excellent for those that are involved with leaders and organizations who lack good leadership.

          I hope you are able to glean alot of good information from those who participate.:)


          Thanks for the new perspective on the Tao quote.
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: But ....

        • W T

          • 0
          Dec 15 2011: Sorry Thomas...I meant to delete the end but got called away.

          I wanted to add that to be an effective leader you also need to have good communication skills.

          Individuals who can communicate effectively emerge as leaders in a group environment.

          And those who lack communication skills will quickly take courses to improve said skills.

          Don't you think so?
      • thumb
        Dec 15 2011: Hi Mary,

        Yes, I do think that communication skills are "teachable." I actually teach communication skills as part of "soft skills" training I provide for business people.


        PS I prefer "Thomas."
        • W T

          • 0
          Dec 18 2011: I have edited my entries accordingly Thomas.....thank you for clarifying this point.
          Mary is the short version of my name, since most people like calling me Mary, I see it as a term of endearment...I won't tell you what the long version is....that is strictly for family, and legal papers.
        • thumb
          Dec 21 2011: Hi Thomas, you wrote "I do think that communication skills are "teachable." "

          I agree that some aspects of communication are skill based and can be taught but also believe effective communication requires a capacity for listening, compassion, and seeing things from another's perspective.

          This capacity can be developed, but that is a much different process than teaching in my mind.
      • thumb
        Dec 20 2011: Mary and Bob bring up great points. In our hierarchical culture we think of leaders as one size fits all, but that is not always the case. There are facilitators, logistical organizers, speakers, exemplars, task masters, teachers, and many other types of leader. In many cases a cause or effort may require multiple types (either in one person or across several individuals). Poor leaders, depending on environment, may drown or may be promoted because their reward is based on factors other than "leadership in their group". Still, true leadership requires a bit of everything or a following that is willing and able to take up where their leader may lack.

        The best dichotomy I can think of for effective leadership in a single person is a single-parent. A great single parent is all manner of leader to their child (all of the above and more) and has a rapport and earned authority such that their leadership has a greater impact on the life of their child than the world outside their familiy. A struggling single parent faces leadership challenges around every corner...friends, neighbors, teachers, media, crime, etc. It is an unfortunately position of leadership, as ideally that role and the responsibilities involved are shared, but in this example one person may be tasked with being all things and the results become evident fairly quickly.
      • Dec 29 2011: Perhaps you have heard of the "Peter Principle"which is the plague of beurocracy.

        Essitially it states that an individual continues to be promoted as long as they show ability. Each rise in status accompanied by more responsibility, until they are beyond thier capabilities, where the individual plateaus. So, meritocratic promotion leads to a group being led by individuals at least one tier above thier level of competence.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Great topic Thomas. And fascinating observations Bob.

      I’ve always had a problem with the iconization of individuals. It seems that society converts itself into a mass of couch potatoes when it begins to create heroes. Whether in sports, arts, business or politics when we glorify one individual we seem to sap the motivation from many others.

      Your point, Bob, about the temporary leadership role was illustrated to me recently on a visit to the Philly Occupy site. A meeting was going on with one person who seemed to be the leader. When I asked someone nearby about his (the “leader’s”) role I was told that no one there was the leader. That individuals temporarily take on the facilitator role, but at the next meeting someone else will have that role.

      Seems like a very powerful tool for group decision making. Will we see more of this in the future?
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: QUOTE: "I’ve always had a problem with the iconization of individuals. It seems that society converts itself into a mass of couch potatoes when it begins to create heroes. Whether in sports, arts, business or politics when we glorify one individual we seem to sap the motivation from many others."

        Hi Tim,

        Do you think "leadership" is a necessary function and, not necessarily, a role or a position? The Philly Occupy site, it would seem, had "revolving" leadership.

        Do you think that might be more effective than the catalysing figure of, say, a Dr Martin Luther King?
    • thumb
      Dec 21 2011: QUOTE: "I agree that some aspects of communication are skill based and can be taught but also believe effective communication requires a capacity for listening, compassion, and seeing things from another's perspective. ... This capacity can be developed, but that is a much different process than teaching in my mind."

      Hi Bob,

      Yes, I agree. There are certain aptitudes that facilitate effective communication: listening, empathy, compassion, willingness to suspend judgement, and so on. Some of us seem to have greater facility with some of these aptitudes than others.

      Skills, as you say, can be taught; aptitudes, not so much.

      My position is that no matter what our personal aptitudes are, there is always room for improvement (always!) That is why the skills, which are the only thing we can teach, are such effective tools. They allow us to apply our aptitudes, whatever they are, to ever and ever greater levels of competence.

      As I am sure you know, that even if we "teach this stuff" we are always on the learning side of the curve.
      • thumb
        Dec 23 2011: Thomas wrote: “Skills, as you say, can be taught; aptitudes, not so much.”

        The term “capacity” more clearly describes what I am referring to than “aptitude” I believe capacity can be developed and that it may be more important to effective communication and leadership than skills.

        Someone who is very skilled in the use of language but has little empathy will have a much harder time understanding and dealing with the issues and concerns of others than one who has a great capacity for empathy but little training in “effective” communication.

        Politics in the U.S. today is a prime example of this. Political consultants are very skilled at creating frames that promote their message and propel their candidates to power but these candidates (as we are seeing) lack the empathy, compassion, and vision to be effective leaders.

        Communication skills can be (and too often are) used to manipulate appearances. Developing basic human capacities such as empathy and compassion prevents us from doing so.

        Unfortunately our education systems focuses almost entirely on teaching skills and transmitting information with little regard for developing basic human capacities.
    • W T

      • 0
      Jan 4 2012: Came across this site by one of TED's members, thought I'd share:
  • thumb
    Jan 12 2012: With two days left, do we have any other comments or contributions to make on the topic of leadership?

    My take on the conversation (from memory) is that leadership is an essential part of our cultures. How it is practiced seems to be the main thrust of the debate. On the one hand we have a "traditional" leader - a strong, charismatic, force of nature that others rally behind; and, on the other hand, we have a collaborative type of leader who emerges from the team on an ad hoc basis.

    In the latter case, any individual might assume a leadership roll for a period of time and then give it up as circumstance, perhaps, dictates that someone else might offer more effective leadership for a given project or period of time.

    Taken further, we might have teams with no individual leader at all ... that is, the team acts as a collective leader and any orders arise as a result of the "law of the situation" to use Follett's phrase.

    When it comes to "followership" we can make a distinction between "followers" who presumably would follow a traditional leader and "participants" who would share responsibility for "leading" the way.

    In my personal observation, it appears that the traditional leader roll is well ensconced and in no danger of extinction and that collaborative, shared leadership is rare.

    I have also observed that establishing a collaborative, leaderless working environment requires, somewhat paradoxically, a form of leadership that essentially creates the space for true collaboration to take place.

    Probably what Bob refers to as a facilitator.

    This seems to be necessary, in part, because many people still expect to be given direction by a conventional leader and they may be afraid to act without the safety net of being able to say, "She (or he) told me to do it."
  • thumb
    Jan 4 2012: "Followership"

    Over the years I have observed that there are those who seek out leadership. They seem to lack initiative in certain spheres, even though they may be self-starters in others. (Edit - I'd distinguish between "followers" and "participants".)

    The social side of leading.
    In high school I never quite understood the phenomenon of wanting to be part of the "in group". It seemed to me that I could be entertained by the right mix of personalities, which had nothing to do with what they wore or what car they drove. You can probably imagine that ironically, that made any cluster of people I was hanging around with an "in clique" regardless whether I was hanging out with cheerleaders (disclosure: I was the captain), hanging out in the smoking area, or hanging with the brainy kids.

    A couple of years ago, I found out people were terrified of me in high school. Not entirely sure why since I was only ever unjustifiably mean to one person in grade 7 and I still feel like shit about it, so I never really got the whole "putting other people down to feel better about yourself" thing. Make no mistake, I can be mean, but people actually have to provoke it in some way.

    (Random aside: when I was writing the first version of All I Need to Know About Business I Learned from Cheerleading, I contemplated addressing the Machiavellian question: is it better to be loved or feared? And I have to say, "Loved." What people fail to realize, is there is apparently a whole lot of fear involved in love - the fear of the loss thereof is much more motivating that simply fear in general)

    So on the social front, a lot of people seem to require leadership -- and I think that sets a stage for other areas of their lives. Fear of speaking up then translates into an unwillingness to take responsibility for other things. A group of people like that together can be a disorganized nightmare to someone like me. And not because they necessarily lack a vision, but because they won't spit it out
    • thumb
      Jan 7 2012: Hi Gisella,

      The social side of leading is an interesting one. We do seem to have a propensity to follow ... follow trends, fashions, TV sitcoms (what is that all about?) and so on.

      I like your distinction between followers and participants. Now that you've pointed it out, I would personally like to see more participants and fewer followers.

      Do you think our current models of leadership (or yours) have anything to do with people being afraid to speak up and take responsibility?

      (Disclosure: I was student council president ... and a cheerleader (except we called it "The Glee Club."))
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: Yeah, I don't consider myself a "follower" but I will participate in things that catch my attention and warrant my support.

        And your disclosure somewhat supports my theory that some of us are just born bossy, hee.

        I don't think my model of leadership suppresses others' opinions - for instance my first response to discovering people were afraid of me was, "Why? What did you think I was going to do if you said 'no' to me?" Most of them had zero answer to this, so it leads me to think that people envision far worse consequences than will actually befall them.

        For the record, I just thought people thought my ideas were brilliant (which of course they always were ;-). If anyone said 'no' I'd just come up with something else or wait for them to suggest an alternative. That's not a particularly scary Worst Case Scenario.

        I think people are disproportionately worried about Being Wrong or Looking Like a Fool. I'm often wrong. C'est la vie. I'm also often right. If you don't actually speak up, though, no one will know when you are right.
  • W T

    • 0
    Jan 4 2012: Came across this site by one of TED's members, thought I'd share:
  • thumb

    E G

    • 0
    Dec 28 2011: A good leader in my opinion is that one who obey very careful Machiavelli's principle : ''the end justify the means'' .
  • thumb
    Dec 22 2011: Hi All,

    So far most of the debate has focussed on leadership and even though there does seem to be "room for debate" - some see leadership, in the conventional sense, as necessary; some see it as necessary, in a modified sense, more of a collaboration. I do not think anyone has said we could get along without some form of leadership (correct me if I am mistaken.)

    So far, there has not been too much talk of "followership."

    Regardless of the form leadership takes - a charismatic, emergent, or elected leader or a collaborative shared leadership - the word "leader" implies some of us will be followers.

    When it comes to the leadership debate, what responsibilities do followers have?


    Let me offer two quotes that might offer a stepping off point for the discussion:

    Whenever it is obvious that the order arises from the situation, the question of someone commanding and someone obeying does not come up. Both accept what the situation demands. Our chief problem then is not how to get people to obey orders, but how to devise methods by which we can best discover what the order shall be. When that is found the employee could issue direction to the employer as well as employer to employee. – Mary Parker Follett

    No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings. - Peter Drucker
    • thumb
      Dec 23 2011: I believe the qualities that lead to effective leadership and followership are the same: vision and passion.

      Vision is simply seeing clearly, which involves understanding needs, concerns, potential, and opportunities in the current situation and being able to forsee and adapt to obstacles that could undermine or delay the mission.

      Passion is having the energy and motivation to move forward (or wait when necessary) along with the belief in the worthiness of the cause and faith in the people who work to support it.

      This leads to a collective model of leadership where shared vision and values are the driving force. Organization and collaboration are facilitated by leaders who temporarily emerge for that purpose or by a neutral facilitator whose role is to clarify issues, obstacles, and opportunities and keeping things moving in a healthy positive direction.

      There would need to be a transition from our current model of hierarchical leadership to one based on shared values and vision. We now have the technology to accomplish this. includes some ideas regarding how this could be done.
      • thumb
        Dec 23 2011: Hi Bob,

        What, do you think, are the "followers" responsibilities if they find themselves being led by an ineffective leader?
        • thumb
          Dec 24 2011: Hi Thomas, You wrote “What, do you think, are the "followers" responsibilities if they find themselves being led by an ineffective leader?”

          After thinking about it, I was going to edit my previous post to add this concept but your question raised the issue I failed to address.

          I believe the most effective system is where each of the participants has full, shared responsibility for the direction and effectiveness of the program.

          My experience in this kind of system is that blame and power plays disappear as everyone works together for the good of the program. Ideas and strategies were not connected to one person. The concept of “ineffective leadership” did not exist because ideas and strategies that did not work out were simply dropped or improved upon as other participants pointed this out.

          Eliminating the role of a static leader solves and prevents all kinds of problems. A model of shared responsibility maximizes input in generating ideas and solving problems and engages each participant in working for the good of the whole.
  • thumb
    Dec 18 2011: Frans, then we disagree but ultimately shared responsibility only works if all want to be responsible. Coordination only works if you have cooperation. Civilization, as you point out, is supported by all civilians. That doesn't mean that all support equally and it doesn't mean that there is not leadership. I will ask you to point to any human civilization that existed without leadership (bad politicians notwithstanding) and continued to exist longer than two generations. I don't believe it has ever existed, though I could be wrong.
  • thumb
    Dec 18 2011: I'll be travelling for a few days and might be unable to check in on the conversation.

    So far, we seem to have two major themes: Leadership is necessary and leadership is not necessary. Perhaps, more accurately, formal leadership is not necessary.

    It seems some of us think the role of the leader is important: we need actual leaders. Some think we need direction and focus but that it can come from, say, a cause, and from collective input and consensus.

    We might say, some think leaders are emergent - they are identified by their leadership attributes in any given situation. And some think direction and focus are emergent; they arise "from the situation" and are self-evident. In effect, the situation (goal, objective, desired outcome) takes the role of leader.

    Some think leaders strengthen us. Some think they weaken us.

    These are good points for debate.

    We might also look for "third alternatives."

    Have fun.

    I'll check in when I get settled.
  • Dec 17 2011: Some further on topic yet un-related thoughts from the led...

    It occurs to me that leadership often defines iself after the fact. He who acts becomes he who led.I think of a playground, or a school dance, where our social models are constructed. Or perhaps more tellingly, of the unamed man standing in front of a tank in Tianamen square. I don't think he set out that morning to become a meme of dissent for a generation. Is that leadership?

    We know that mob mentality is not very mental, and that unfocused it is irrational at best. It seems that when directed through orginization to specific goals, this acts as a sort of force multiplier in efficiency. this would imply an intrinsic benifit to unification of purpose that would, when competing with chaotic orginizations, eqaute to a marked advantage.That orginization requires management, or it is simply the chaos it contends with, and management means leaders.

    The groups size would be of intrinsic importance, are we talking about a family? a business? a bowling team? ( why does a bowling tean requiare a captain?), a nation? a religion? a trend-setter? etc... Obviously the larger the group, the more possible removal any one individual can have from the focus.

    Smaller groups,(50 +/-) where all individuals ideosincratic factors are well known, could have context specific leadership, as I have mentioned elsewhere, but I am afraid the concentration of purpose through an orginizational body is an intrinsic aspect of larger populations. Is a leaderless state possible? If such a pseudo-communism were realistic, would we have a social addiction to the concept and "elect" other kinds of leaders?

    Thumbs up for an interesting topic Thomas. Or is that Mr. Jones?

    Best regards
    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: Hi Ian,

      To respond to more than one of your posts here:

      You see leadership, in its modern guise, as "consensual" more so than power-based, autocratic or imposed.

      Leaders exist because we explicitly or tacitly agree they should exist; and we need them in complex organizations, whether a corporation, a religion, or a nation.

      In groups above 50 or so, leaders provide focus to what might otherwise be chaotic or diffuse and inefficient behaviour.


      It's "Thomas" not "Mr. Jones."
      • Dec 17 2011: Thomas,

        I would think modern western leadership is often consensual in specifics, I.e: who specifically shall act in the role, but less so in general, (will the role exist). I think groups compete for resources, be they physical, social etc... and leaderless ones do so inefficiently. This of course is in reference to syetematic leadership, such as in local / national politics. The larger the group, the less any individual actively conesnts. The pools and parameters of chioce dependent on the culture in question.
        Ad hoc leadership still exists I believe, often defined as such in retrospect, rather than appointed in anticipation.
  • Dec 17 2011: A quote from Christopher Huchins, inspired by his recent and untimely passing...

    " It is well known that Martin Luther King liked his wiskey and young women, a fact in which I take great solace, for it demonstrates that great moral purity is not a prerequisite for great moral accomplishments."

    Is it appropriate to say rest in peace regarding an atheist?

    Perhaps a little off topic, but it does inspire a question, should we expect our leaders to be exemplary?

    In pre-roman Celtic tradition a king had to be perfect in form, for he represented the people to the gods. An imperfect king meant an imperfect people. Do we expect that perfection? Or merely the appearance of it?. Was Clinton exiled for his actions, or for his getting caught? Why was Kennedy idolized for his activities, and Clinton ostrasized?
  • thumb
    Dec 17 2011: There appears to be two general themes emerging: One, leadership is necessary; and two, it is optional.

    A few comments indicate it is a natural part of our heritage, we essentially evolved to follow leaders as it kept us safe.

    Other comments imply we have been conditioned by our societies to follow leaders and might not do so otherwise.

    As this is a debate, those seem like good paces to "draw a line" and argue it out.

    What say you?

    Do we need leaders?

    Would we be better off without them?

    Might there be a "third option," perhaps we need leaders some of the time and not at others?
    • Dec 17 2011: Greetings,

      Leadership of the type discussed here, i.e: political/ Social , is i think predicted on a certain cultural methodology. It might be instructive to look at how it is regarded in dramatically different cultural contexts.

      The hottentots for example, studied as on of the few remenant hunter gatherer societies,showed interesting charachteristics in leadership. Tribal, (i.e: family groups of up to 40 people), decisions were made democratically, where as specialist activites were led by the best specialist, i.e.: the best hunter led the hunt, the best trader did the trading, the best navigator chose the path, etc... This context specific style of leadership is at odds with our own cultural history and has not found the same expression in modern states. Certainly, we hire or appoint advisors and cabinets, but they advise, not decide.

      I am curious about thought regarding the establishment of leadership models on family hierarchies. Is this one of the cultural roots of our conceptions of leadership?

      Are leadership methodologies, predicated on media methods? Consider the famous Kennedy / Nixon debates leading to the 1960 ellection. Those that heard them on the radio considerd Nixon the winner, to an overwhelming majority. Confoundingly, those who watched the debate on telivision belived that Kennedy was the obvious victor. Has anyone else noticed that all of the presidents since telivision proliferated have been somewhat handsome? Would Churchill or Roosevelt have been elected in the telivison generation?

      Best Regards
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: Hi Ian,

        So in small groups, like the "Hottentots," leadership followed skill and aptitude. Leaders were essentially "emergent" - the best hunter led the hunt, and so on.

        When societies became larger and more complex, leaders might be selected for incidental qualities such as appearances, political adroitness, or even oratory, as opposed to actual skill or ability.

        You are wondering if leadership models might be based on family structure.

        Do you see family structure as hierarchical, egalitarian, nuclear, or extended?

        I think the concept of family is quite different in China than it is in Canada, for example.
        • Dec 17 2011: Thomas

          "Emergent" - excellent term for it.

          Hierarchical i would say, as this is the common family structure for developing agrarian societies. If leadership is derived from this model, it would be deeply rooted in the culture, which though changing reciprocally with the current family model, certainly has more longevity.

          It is also, I would posit, the most common leadership structure in recorded history, (which of course post-dates agrarian development), and the modern world.
  • thumb
    Dec 16 2011: Leaders serve two main functions: Inspiration and Decision-Making. As you mentioned there are different ways that leaders come to their positions but in the end they serve the same base functions.

    For inspiration: they can inspire thought, belief, action, emotion, perseverance, personal growth, spiritual growth, and commerce. The best leaders inspire (in some fashion) all of the above. By their ascendency, the parties that put them in leadership are drawn to what this person inspires in them, believing he/she will inspire others in similar fashion. This tends to happen better when leaders are elected or appointed by those they lead than when a leader is thrust on them, but it can work in either case. A great leader must have a charisma about them, real or feigned, that draws people to their message. That message has to first and foremost explain and thoroughly sell the "Why". For all the great messaging, next to no one wants to follow Al Gore. As Simon Sinek said in his talk, people don't follow what you do but why you do it.

    The second function of a leader is Decision Making. For all the decisions that must be made throughout the world, the number of people who "want" to make those decisions is shrinking. As we become more interconnected, generation after generation, the impact and consequences of our decisions become larger. The will to lead and the responsibilities that come with it are aspects few truly care to carry. Most would rather be a deckhand than a captain, which is hardly surprising. Being a captain is tough. A great leader has the fortitude to make decisions, especially tough decisions, without knowing that he/she is right. A great leader will accept the blame if a thing goes wrong without placing it on his/her team. A great leader makes the decisions, but doesn't decide alone. Lastly, a great leader walks their talk.
    • thumb
      Dec 17 2011: Hi Kevin,

      Based on your reply, it seems you think leaders are a natural and necessary part of our cultures. They inspire others to action and they make the tough decisions.

      The corollary is that most of us would have to want to follow someone else's vision and we would want someone else to make the tough decisions.

      Do you think that is true?
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: Thomas...the key distinction is "us". Do I believe that most of humanity wants to follow someone else? Absolutely yes! Do most of humanity want someone else to make the tough decisions? Yes! Do most of TEDsters want someone to follow and someone to make the tough decisions? Maybe not, but I'd bet the majority still do for those areas in which they are not intimately knowledgeable. The world has become so big that there are so many decisions beyond our scope or vision to make. Some one(s) have to make those decisions and we (all of us) want someone to make them. Yes, I believe leaders are a natural and necessary part of all cultures. The alternative is progress by universal consent, which is virtually impossible to get. In the end, someone chooses the next steps and we (the masses) can choose to follow that leader or not to. Choosing not to generally means we wait for the next leader(s) to lead another way. Ultimately our paths and our paradigms roll back to key's just a matter of who, what and when. Leaders change shape, form, and strategy but their purpose is the same.
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: Hi Kevin,

          Based on simple observation it is hard to argue we do not want leaders. Leaders are ubiquitous - from political leaders to quarterbacks.

          If "leaders are a natural and necessary part of all cultures," as you say, how do you think we might improve leadership?
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: I absolutely disagree with most of your views Kevin.
          We don't need leaders, we need coordinators, shared responsibility, we need civilization. Civilization as the word says isn't based on central power but supported by all civilians.
  • Dec 16 2011: As part of Occupy Pittsburgh we have no leader by design, so far it has worked out well. Everyone pitches in to get things done and we have working groups to take care of different tasks. You can choose to be a part of a working group or not. Then we have a meeting with all the members every other day where proposals are brought up. People can have points of concern with these proposals and voice them. Then there can be amendments to the proposal if the group chooses to do so. Then a concensus is taken and we either vote it in or out and that's how we operate the camp. It's not perfect but it is nice to practice this different type of community, we even have community building discussions where everyone gets to speak and voice ideas, concerns, opinions or a problem they may be having. So in closing I would say no, we don't always need a leader.
  • thumb
    Dec 16 2011: yeah, that's what i mean.
  • thumb
    Dec 16 2011: leader earn much more than us, and of course, he must carry more pressure and responsibility.if he fall us down he must pay back something like lose money or lose power to order people.For ME, the leader with legal power can not be punished if they disappoint us. they just get away and leave the mess to the next one.
    • thumb
      Dec 16 2011: Hi Julius,

      So what you don't like about people with legal power is they have authority but not responsibility. They can "do things" but do not have to "pay the price" if they make a mistake.

      Is that right?
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: Leadership should be done through example. there is an old saying ``Those that can do, those that can`t teach.``
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: let 's admit this. Even there is a group which the menbers never meet the others before. Then throw them to a island or somewhere apart them from the socity. there will be a leader come out very soon, just like the things happen in movies or series. Even the animals have leaders, so i think it is something deeper. leader is not something about Fin or Skill or Charm, we need leaders because we are once animals and we want be protected and ruled. we are not strong enough to deal with all the problems of our lives. and a group with a leader can ease our nervous and make us belive we are in the right of life. by the way, i dont like the leaders with legal power.we need them, but i just dont like them.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Hi Julius,

      You are saying leadership is a part of our nature and it makes us feel safe.

      You do not like leaders with legal power? Why not?
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: Leaders are the painters of vision and architect of the journey!!!
    They focus for future with strong desire and action to achieve their goals by effectively using men & materials.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Leaders paint pictures of futures that do not yet exist and design the structures that help us reach them.

      Is that correct?
  • thumb
    Dec 15 2011: There are many kinds of leaders. We have civic leaders, political leaders, religious leaders, industrial leaders, community leaders, public intellectuals; leaders in companies, families, clubs, schools, and even leaders in criminal organizations. There are fashion leaders, coaches, trendsetters, cult leaders, and so on. All of them exert a degree of leadership.

    Some of them have legal power (Hu Jintao, Barak Obama;) some have vast resources at their disposal (Bill Gates, Carlos Slim;) and some have no formal position but wield enormous moral power (i.e. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mother Teresa.) Some "popular leaders" like Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey exert their influence and charge for the privilege.

    What sets all these leaders apart from the rest of us?

    What can we learn from them, individually? And what can we learn from the fact the leadership role exists at all?
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Thomas Jones wrote “What sets all these leaders apart from the rest of us?”

      You describe a number of different kinds of leaders. A number of them rose to power through ego and ambition, which I do not view as qualities of great leadership (The great leader is he who the people say, 'We did it ourselves.' – Lao Tsu)

      I don’t believe a great leader exists “apart from the rest of us.” We have been conditioned to being told what to do. A great leader sees potential both in projects or products and the people who carry them out. I believe each of us has the capacity for leadership in the area where our gifts and passion lie. It is a matter of opening our mind to our own and other’s potential as well as the potential in our community and world.
      • thumb
        Dec 18 2011: I agree that the Leader is not just a single figure. At the least, IT SHOULD NOT BE. We TEND to look at leaders as apart from us because they did amazing unusual HEROIC things. Or as the old wise guy, the guru, the master, the source...

        to a kid, it might be mission impossible...

        to an adult, it might be just someone to be admired...
        (vice versa)

        That SHOULD NOT BE how the concept is developed.

        Instead, why not pose leadership as an inherent capability to make positive changes for the self and an organization.

        On the other hand, leaders have individual differences. They can be apart from us in a certain degree. We cannot be them, nor they can be us.


        People have shifted leadership concepts thru time...

        from authoritarian to democratic...

        from kings to presidents, ministers, etc...

        In our modern times...

        where people ask a lot, but do not do a lot...


        Taking the lead is not just one solo dance in a bigger stage called the world.
    • thumb
      Dec 15 2011: Part of the answer to your question Thomas is that a lot of people are raised to follow and some take benefit of that trait and exploit it.

      I wouldn't call Gandhi and others like him leaders, they're inspirators. They personify the ideal a lot of people admire. The same goes for fashion makers and trendsetters with that difference that the ideal is implanted with marketing first.
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Hi Frans,

        So you think some of us are raised to follow leaders. Would we not follow leaders, do you think, if we were not conditioned to do so?

        Julius Sephiroth thinks it is in our nature to follow leaders - it makes us feel safe (see his earlier comment.)

        Gandhi was certainly an inspiration. He was, possibly, the most influential human being (in his lifetime) to have ever lived.*

        You don't see Gandhi as a leader? How do you make the distinction?

        People did "follow" him.
        * Chairman Mao, in his lifetime, may have influenced more people ... I haven't "checked the numbers."
        • thumb
          Dec 16 2011: The distinction I made was a bit arbitrary.
          You are right that a leader is followed. The difference I thought of was between those that are authorized to lead by a third party and miss the qualities to do so and those that inspire, that go in front and point the direction.
          The form of leadership depends on conditioning and the current conditions of life.
          Germanic tribes in the past were not ruled then by their unwritten laws. The head of the family made decisions after consulting those involved. The tribe made decisions on votes.
          After the Romans destroyed those cultural structures and decimated the peoples only power ruled. Bands were formed and gangs that followed the most fearsome of the lot. This is a way to survive that you see today as well for the same reasons, think of Soweto for instance.

          So, harmonic groups of families form cultures that support the interest of all members and disharmonic, distorted or corrupted groups, form around power for safety and survival.
          The Roman empire was based on power as the Normans later on. They established the norms by which Europe was organized around 1000 AD.
          That structure is basically unchanged until now and introduced in other parts of the world. Companies and religions were formed on the same base, the power of necessity or faith and of terror and now it is questioned for it is obvious that it always leads to a minority that exploits the majority.
          To change this is very difficult for it is the only thing most people know and can think of. Revolutionaries like Mao, Stalin and others that fight the current system, end up to do the same in favor of another group. I think it can’t be changed then gradual and on a worldwide scale.

          It is a good thing that local on many places experiments are done with ways to organize groups in a way that respects all participants equally. They will become models for future change.
      • thumb
        Dec 16 2011: Hi Frans,

        So about a thousand years ago we established a set of cultural "memes" predicated on the power-based models of Roman, and Frankish-Scandinavian culture. These models, being based on power, and not consensus, inform our cultures to this day and we are conditioned to accept and follow leaders.

        Is that right?

        I'm not sure I understand this: " can’t be changed then gradual and on a worldwide scale."

        Are you saying it has to be changed quickly, perhaps through revolution?

        I'm a bit confused because that seems to be in contradiction to this sentiment: "It is a good thing that local on many places experiments are done with ways to organize groups in a way that respects all participants equally. They will become models for future change."
        • thumb
          Dec 16 2011: You have to put quickly into context. The Roman empire was built in 12 years. If you consider that quick then yes it is probably fair to say it has to be done quickly. The odd peace to the change is that it comes from war. The Arab Spring we had earlier this year is the outcropping of 10 years of silent but building protests that came from the conflicts in Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan. The American Civil Rights movement gained it's greatest momentum 13 years after the end of WWII. Gandhi's peace movement began 9 years after the start of the Zulu War. The existing power structure must be broken, or at least damaged in order to replace the existing paradigm.
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: I think indeed that a transition from a power based hierarchal system to a cooperative system need time for people to understand it and adapt to it. I think it has to be worldwide to prevent that a peaceful and harmonic civilization is attacked by barbarians as it was the case in the world of antiquity.

          In history many civilizations developed, in Europe, China, India, S.E. Asia even the Middle East and Egypt. Time and again they were pillaged and destroyed by wild people for loot and territory. So, sustainable development can’t leave no one out. Either kill those primitives or educate them. The first option was a Christian one as they for over centuries thought that those that weren’t baptized had no value for God and could be killed without blame. Now we may try the approach of education.

          It is time for without cooperation and worldwide coordination we endanger our own existence. For this to happen it is good that models become available that are tried out at a small scale.
        • Dec 17 2011: Kevin,

          Not to pick nits but I think your historical interpretations of timelines are somewhat arbitrary.

          the Roman Empire was not built in 12 years, it grew into a monolithic republic by the 1st century bc and was doomed by it's growing size and slow unwieldiness, a process that occured over centuries. As to the specifics of the "tossing of the die", most roman historians would say Sulla laid the first stone of empire in 69 bc when he marched on Rome, and it was not "Imperial" in name until Augustuses death in 14 A.D.

          You could say that theArab spring comes after 40 years of oppression, or 400 years of conflict, or 4000, all would be as accurate. The roots of the conflict in the Old World are the oldest roots in the world of warfare and upheavel, saying they started at any one recent point is an opinion only.

          The American civil rights movement started with the liberation of the slaves, and continues today. Rosa parks and M.L. King are benchmarks, not bookends.

          I am less informed on the Indian uprising and the movements pre WW2 history, but I have read my Kipling, and he does not represent a truely contented 19th century Indian populace.

          As to the necessity of anarchy, or overthrow, to give room for new leaders to grow, some examples to support this come to mind, such as the French Revolution, the Rise of Communism in China and Russia, among others. Conversely, the constitutional Monarchy of England has, (Excluding the New Model Army and Grand Commander) survived for over almost 1000 years, though not without some conflict, and has changed throughout that history. Likewise, there have been many instances of great reform within the Catholic church that are isolated from chaos, another millenialy aged orginization.

          While chaos and upheavel can bring on opportunities for leaders to arise, sometimes those are not the leaders we want, Napoleon, Mao, Hitler, etc.. Whereas the evolution of groups tends not to give such... unpredictable results.

          Best regards
      • thumb
        Dec 17 2011: [Frans, this is a reply to Kevin's comment.]

        Hi Kevin,

        What you appear to be saying is that "new leadership" or, perhaps, "new systems" emerge after the old ones have been damaged by war.

        Do you see war or violent conflict as essential to these transitions?

        Do you think leadership is necessary?
      • Dec 17 2011: Frans,
        I am afraid I must resp[ectfully diagree concerning Ghandi, as Thomas pointed out, people did follow him.

        In 1930 Ghandi marched to the Sea in protest against a Salt tax levied by the British in 1882. Without request tens of thousands followed him, and many died to do so at the hands of the British. These inividuals are the "third party."

        As to the defining of European laedership methodologies in Norman times, I am not sure I follow your argument. I agree that something like modern European borders existed after Charlemange ,(9 c.) though they were to go through centuries of change berfore we would recognize them again. As to leadership, only the church has maintained any consistency there, and perhaps only in name, as the christianity of today would be blasphemous to the christendom of the time.

        All European governments of 1000 A.D were ablolute autocratic aristocracies. Todays Europe has no such leaders, the last died in Russia in 1917. Leaders of the late dark ages were defined by birth or warfare, neither defines western leadership today, ( I whistle distractedly as I pass the Bush residence). In Fact only three kingdoms remain, all of them contitutional monarchies, which did not exist circa 1000, and had not since classical Greece.

        If, as I might read your post, leadership is defined by power, I find this a machiavellian argument, difficult to dispute in real-polotik. The contention I have here is the idea of "consent of the governed" and Rousseau's " Socail contract" both rooted in pre-modern european political thought. Fascism was based on the leadership of power, and it didn't work so well on the modern industrial stage. Mousollini comes to mind.

        Today's form of westen leadership may well be mired in power plays, glad-handing, sound bits, and media bytes, but it is also the most egalitarian method yet devised for large industrial populations, which we are. There is a black man relaxing in the oval office... pretty telling evidence.

        Best Regards
        • thumb
          Dec 17 2011: Ian,
          To tell European history in a few lines wasn't my intent and impossible.
          Charlemagne the Great played a decisive role to force Christianity upon all peoples. William the Conqueror had his own way of dealing with things. He made use of the church and made the pope to his puppet.
          He ruled England and Normandy from castles and strongholds occupied by his Norman kin and they spread over Europe. Their descendents started the crusades for more land and wealth, they built cathedrals to proclaim their glory and might.

          Of course there is much more to say but my point was that they lay the basics we lived by over centuries. The French Revolution, Fascism, Nazism, Communism are all flawed attempts to break the structures by which a small elite could exploit the masses. Democracy is cosmetics to that same system were the power is largely passed on into businesses where the capital flows.
          As King Leopold of Belgium first exploited the Congo as his property for gold, diamonds and rubber, nowadays rich companies are doing the same for minerals, etc. They don’t chop off the legs of unwilling people anymore but found ways to let them slaughter each other.