It seems that you’re only important if you hold a position of leadership, managers need to be leaders too; we should all be leaders of our own niche market and so forth. Leadership, leading, recognising potential leaders etc has become a huge industry in recent years and people have made some very good money out of ‘leading’ people into convincing themselves that they should be leaders.
Why has it become so important?
o The American Dream isn’t just about the poor boy transcending class boundaries to become a rich man. It is about the strange outsider transcending social boundaries to become a leader.
o The world is made up of those who lead (and therefore get ahead) and those who don’t (and can be used by the others) – it is a reflection of capitalism, and doesn’t require anything more than the ability to convince people you are the right person to follow.
o It is just another device that taps into our selfish desire to control and have power over people. Something like, if I can become the leader then everyone will follow me to where I want to go. It has become about the leader rather than the people. Whereas the great leaders of history rose up to implement the will of the people, this new industry is telling the people to rise up as individuals in order to coerce as many people as you can into following you and bringing you success.
o What is so dangerous about the notion of The American Dream (and the seepage we get elsewhere) is that it has an undetectable hold over you. It stops you from seeing what lies beneath because it tells you that if you work hard enough and want it badly enough you can live it, and when you do it will be amazing. It is just not quite out of reach, so you stick with it, under the spell that you can go to this innately divisive, unjust and unequal utopia at some point in the future.
o This is a clear thing in the emphasis on leadership and why so many people have made money coaching, talking, and writing about how to become a leader. They convince us that the world needs us to take the lead and sell us all their books, DVDs and events so that we too can become like them.
o So many of the leaders around us today are personalities, and become revered because of just this. Leadership becomes about rhetoric (empty manipulative language), lifestyle (we want to live like leaders), and success (we want to lead people to ourselves), rather than empowering people toward working together on a level playing field despite the leaders. Obviously the irony is, if we all become leaders then none of us will be anyway, so it could be heading in that direction anyway, but imagine a world where everyone is trying to lead and nobody is following. It sounds like a contemporary update of that analogy of hell you hear in school assemblies of people with massive spoons trying to feed themselves, as opposed to in heaven where they feed one another.
I am a big believer in small pockets of community and movements and would say that on the whole someone like Seth Godin is right in his basic idea that people need to create and belong to tribes. I would love to see, rather than everybody trying to build their own tribes because they want renown, them becoming a part of another, coexisting and sharing in that identity despite those people who are trying to lead it toward themselves. If they feel a need to build a tribe because there is a need for change that isn’t already being addressed, ensure it is for the sake of community and not simply for the advancement of you own reputation and material worth. This is, I believe our natural inclination, but it has been corrupted by those who want to manipulate us by showing to us we can manipulate one another to get what we want.
Leadership is of course necessary, but it subverts the norm, it stems from a desire for change to the status quo and it is not defined by ones face, personality or name. In our new economy of ideas, we should seek real inspiration rather than coming up with ideas simply for ideas sake.