February 25, 2010
I Was NOT A Leader
Ever since graduation from ninth grade I have been suspicious of the word, 'leader.' About ten or twelve of our junior high graduation class were told we were going to be made members of the National Junior Honor Society. One was supposed to excel in leadership, scholarship, character and service.
I could see why Barbara was chosen, and Dorothy, and Louis, and even Kenneth; but I couldn't understand why I was. I definitely was NOT a leader. Roger definitely WAS a leader, but I heard one teacher had it in for him so he was left out.
I suppose it was OK being included. It made my family happy, but I did feel stupid being told I was a leader when I knew I was not—and guilty, too, about Roger. I imagined him looking at me and thinking, "Hey, how come YOU and not ME?"
Well, kids can't do much about being put into organizations they didn't even ask to join, so I let them pin the torch on me which, I thought, probably showed a lack of character.
They went through the same routine in high school. I had been president of the camera club and the drama club, so I suppose that satisfied the teachers, but to me that was NOT leadership. It was responsibility.
I'll tell you what would have convinced me that I was a leader—my saddle shoes! Saddle shoes were IN when I went to high school. Once, just for fun--and also to see if I could start something—I painted my saddle shoes red, white and blue. If others had thought it was cute, and done the same, I would have believed I was a leader. But it wasn't cute, and they didn't, and I wasn't.
But I'll tell you this, if Connie had been silly enough to paint HER saddle shoes red, white, and blue, half the school would have done the same. That's LEADERSHIP! When you can get people to do something, whether it is stupid or not, just because you did it first, or because you told them to do it, then you are a leader.
I never understood why schools made such a big deal about leadership. With all the talk about ours being a free country, and about people being independent, how could leadership be so wonderful? If people always expect to be led, how can they be free?
Some people do like to be led. I suspect it would be more accurate to say that most people like to be led. It certainly can be more relaxing to let someone else make decisions and save us the trouble of thinking.
The hitch is that most of the aggressive leaders have motives of their own that they do not reveal to those who trust them. Eager followers, caught up in the emotion of togetherness, seldom realize when they are working against their own best interests.
There is nothing quite so effective in keeping people obedient and ignorant as a strong leader who knows how to stir the emotions of his followers by harping on a single principle, arousing feelings of hateful passion, or pleading for love directed toward an admired personality.
There is always a measure of truth in the principle, the accusations, and the admiration, but new information comes from the leader of a hierarchy. The lower levels, it is assumed, will follow the leader, rather than seek knowledge.
Even simple little ceremonies we go through as children sometimes break down our individuality and turn us into followers before we realize what has happened.
My friend loved being in the Girl Scouts, and she invited me to join. I agreed and joined for a time, but it didn't last. One of the reasons was because the leader, a very nice young woman, tried to make a liar out of me at many meetings. At the close of each meeting we had to form what was called a 'friendship circle.' We all held hands and sang a song. That was all right. It was a nice way to close a meeting, but sometimes our leader would talk about how much we all liked each other. We were supposed to agree that we each liked all of the other girls.
Perhaps it wasn't nice, but nevertheless, there were two girls in the troop that I didn’t like at all--not even a little bit. I never fought with them, or even glared at them, and maybe they didn't even know that I didn't like them, but it was not fair for our leader to insist I say I liked them.
When my turn came to talk sugary I couldn't do it. Everybody thought it was because I was shy, but how could I tell anyone the truth?
Did all the other girls really like all the other girls—including me? Or did they only say they liked everyone to satisfy the leader? I really don't know. I suspect they stretched their feelings a little bit to be part of the group, but maybe they really felt what they said they felt. I never will know.
What are leaders anyhow? Leaders are people who think, plan, and make decisions for others. Obviously, the more leaders we have, the less will people think for themselves and act independently. In fact, leadership often makes learning impossible. Followers look to a leader who tells them what to think, say, and do. If the leader says, "Don't listen!" followers obey. If the leader says, "Don't believe!" followers reject. They don't need any evidence. They don't make any personal inquires. They simply follow. Decisions are made on the basis of emotion, not truth.
Since my Girl Scout days I have learned that sociologists and psychologists, many of them working for industries, such as Western Electric in the 1920s, have experimented with people for many years to learn how to control group behavior. As a result behavior modifiers have unlimited numbers of tricks up their sleeves to influence behavior, while at the same time allowing those whose behavior is being modified to believe they are acting independently.
Among the conclusions behavior modifiers have reached are: (1) People like to be experimented on. They like the attention and will perform to the best of their ability because of the extra attention focused on them. (2) You can get ANYBODY to do ANYTHING just as long as you give him a feeling of self worth for doing it. (3) If you want to make changes in the lives of people, their environment, or the rules by which they govern their behavior it is easier to accomplish if you can get those who will be affected by change to participate in making the change.
These behavior modification principles explain why so many of the changes forced on schools and communities are called, 'pilot projects,' why the changes are also accompanied by some plan for citizen participation, and why those who participate are made to believe they are leaders serving their fellow citizens and that they are actually making plans, rather than just being used to help implement them. So much for leadership! It is a burden on the leader and a limitation on the follower.
I try not to use the words 'leader' and 'leadership.' There are many words that are better and more descriptive of what people are doing. Might I suggest a few: guide, coach, teacher, principal, influencer, helper, captain, commander, foreman, president, instructor, dictator, executive, boss, owner, authority, trainer, organizer, administrator, general, etc. . . .
One of the difficulties with the word 'leader' is that people who think of themselves as leaders of people tend to assume more authority than their positions legitimately grant. For example, consider this headline, 'WORLD LEADERS MEET TO . . ." as opposed to "HEADS OF STATE MEET TO . . ." It seems to me that Heads of State who think of themselves as world 'leaders' are more likely to usurp authority that has not been granted.
The same goes for government offices of all types. For example, if the President of the United States thinks of himself as a leader of people rather than a government executive with specific responsibilities; he is more likely to believe he can make whatever changes he desires in the lives of the people. If he thinks of himself as a world leader rather than the President of the United States he extends his authority and influence beyond what was granted.
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The new world order works as a pyramid leadership system. Everyone can convince himself to believe he is a leader. Those at the top of the pyramid lead those immediately below them. They, in turn, lead those at the next lower level, and so it goes. Everyone feels the joy of being a big shot leading those at the lower levels of command.
If the WORld Management System is ever fully implemented it will be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to make changes. The 'leaders' at all levels will be afraid to give up their rung on the leadership ladder.
� 2010 Erica Carle - All Rights Reserved
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Erica Carle is an independent researcher and writer. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin. She has been involved in radio and television writing and production, and has also taught math and composition at the private school her children attended in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For ten years she wrote a weekly column, "Truth In Education" for WISCONSIN REPORT, and served as Education Editor for that publication.