Monday, September 20, 2021

To lead

"What do you think makes a good leader?"

Oh! Shit! Another of those conversations! You know, the meme type of things which seem very illuminating when you first come across it but is so difficult, if not impossible, to put into practice. You know, somewhat like saying that the easiest way to reduce weight is to say 'No' to food. True but trite because what did that idiot think GOT you to become overweight in the first place if not the inability to do exactly that? Even when you are not exactly feeling starved.

"Buttering up your bosses?"

"I am not talking of getting to positions where the corporate world fondly imagines that you will lead, you moron. I am talking about actually being a leader."

"Know where the crowd is anyway going and walk two steps ahead of it?"

"There you go again," he said in exasperation. "I am not talking of being SEEN as a leader but actually BEING a leader."

There was a difference? I mean, come on, I know people hold these illusions about leaders and academic books prate a lot about leadership qualities and all. But, in reality...isn't every leader a guy who primarily seeks to be SEEN as one?

"You are not too far wrong with your second attempt, though. The main thing is for the leader to be only a couple of steps ahead of the rest. If he goes too far ahead, enough so that he cannot be seen, how do the rest know his way so that they can follow him?"

I stifled a yawn and, in a bid to stifle this Niagara of words, said, "Somewhat like what Arthur Clarke said, huh? When Science is too far ahead of its audience, it is indistinguishable from magic or some such."

"Nonsense! I only meant that what you preach should still be something people can understand even if they cannot think of it themselves. But...hey wait a minute, perhaps you have a point after all. Just like that thing about Science, ideas too far ahead of the rest of the crowd is indistinguishable from madness."

Ah! So I COULD be right, every now and then, even if by mistake.

The chap had taken the bit between his teeth by then. There was no stopping him and I adopted my time honored way of listening to lectures. Closed my eyes and tried not to snore while getting a snooze in.

"You cannot lead people where they do not want to go.  You certainly cannot make them take a U-turn. You know, like trying to get the miser to become an overnight philanthropist and things like that. The trick is to divert them from their own path incrementally so that they see it only as a minor deviation from their own beliefs. And keep doing it till you get them going where you want them to go. Unless, of course, you want to make them change by violent means. Are you listening?"

"Uh! Hmmm! No violence," I said, having just caught the tail-end of his lecture.

"If you want people to follow you, you cannot just charge ahead and expect them to run after you."

"No, No, you cannot. I mean, not everyone is a marathoner," I said.

"Be serious, you idiot."

I was stung. "These leaders who oh so carefully divert people to their path? They exist where? In Narnia?"

He turned pensive, of a sudden.

"No, you are right! And when leaders with the right ideas go too far ahead as to seem like madmen to the populace, you end up getting the wrong sort leading the world."

"What, pray, would count as the wrong sort in your sage opinion?"

"Civilizational values are all about curbing your natural selfishness, curbing your reptile brain's opposition to anyone looking or acting different, for the benefit of Society. Curbs that most people work within but do not necessarily understand or agree with."

"The point of this sociology lecture being?"

"The wrong sort of leaders are the sort who would egg people on to do what their basal instincts dictate. Giving the go-by to the morals that make social equilibrium possible. Then greed is good, mistreating outsiders is patriotic, killing innocent people to make your point is a virtue and so on."

Hmmm! Sort of sounds familiar, does it not?

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