Monday, November 21, 2005

Follow the leader

A while back I received an e-mail from a reader who made the following request:

I am writing to ask if you could use your insight to explore a subject that fascinates me, and that is leadership, and why, I feel, it is a subject that liberals are loathe to examine.They will sniff about intellect and articulation, but never approach the core component called leadership, and without that, what is there in a politician?

I read the daily moanings about Bush from all parts of the Right, and it alienates me, and I'm confused why so many lack my patience or perspective on what is and isn't important about politics during this WoT. I'm puzzled by the lack of faith in his leadership, or the doubts about its usefulness.

My first reaction was: nah, doesn't interest me enough to write about it. Besides, it wasn't something I'd thought very much about before.

But I found the question stayed in my mind. Then I read this post at Sigmund Carl & Alfred, which got me to thinking more about this curious lack--not just the lack of leaders, but the lack of talk about leadership, and the lack of desire for leaders.

I'm interested in why we (and I include myself here) are somewhat averse to the very word "leader." One of the commenters on SC&A touched on what I consider the heart of the answer, and that is that leaders require followers. Or at least we think they do, in the common understanding of the word "leader."

Now, who in American wants to be a follower? Practically no one. Individualism was built into this country from the start, and the distaste for a leader in that sense is not limited to the left--it's very strong on the right, too. The idea of "leader" is too close to royalty on the one hand and to dictatorship on the other.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "leader"--in the political sense, that is? One image it conjures up for me is that of a vast Nazi arena, row upon rigid row, standing as one and giving a rousing "Sieg Heil" and that straight-armed Nazi salute. Another image I have is of the defendants in the Nuremberg dock saying to a man that they were just good Germans, following orders. Leadership took a big hit post-WWII, when it became horrifyingly clear where the extremities of leadership could take human beings. For what, after all, does the word "Fuhrer" mean in German, but "Leader?"

And then there is Big Brother, another iconic image--fictional, this time, but very powerful nonetheless. Anyone who has ever read Orwell's 1984 is probably chilled by the memory of the leader whipping the workers up into a frenzy in the Two Minutes Hate.

Then there is the Soviet example of near-deification of Stalin and Lenin, which rushed in to fill the gap when religion was discouraged by the Soviets, as evidenced by the preservation of their corpses as a sort of secular/political equivalent of holy relics.

So we must be careful. And indeed, we have been. Since Vietnam and Watergate, the press has made it its business to tear down every possible idol, to expose our leaders' feet of clay at every step. This has the benefit that we are not likely to follow blindly or to idealize our leaders. It has the drawback that, blinded by cynicism, we often don't see their positive traits or credit them with any good intentions.

This tendency is particularly pronounced in that notorious cohort to which I must confess I belong, the Baby Boomers. Raised by parents who had renounced some of the authority of their own parents; encouraged by our numbers, prosperity, and the press to take our adolescent rebellion to extremes; many of us have taken the charge "Question Authority" to heart. Some never stop questioning it and rebelling against it, often just for the sake of rebelling.

This may indeed also be part of those leftist attitudes towards the military, a mixture of condemnation ("baby-killers!"), victimization ("poverty-stricken tools of the ruling class") and patronization ("robots").

It's the latter trait ("robots") that I believe ties into what I've been saying here: because the military must follow orders (except illegal ones) and is overtly and explicitly hierarchical, with clear leaders and followers, many boomers on the left who like to continue to think of themselves as free spirits have a special contempt for those who volunteer for it.
But in fact a military would be impossible without such a structure--and I assume that those who volunteer for it are well aware of why they have assumed the burden of needing, at times, to follow, as well as needing to act on their own initiative at other times.

I agree with SC&A that the ability to be inspirational is a big part of political leadership in general. But that inspiration can't just be emotional; it should be hard-headed, based on a calculation of the decisions that leader has made, and always reserving a portion of skepticism. If one has a real reason to admire what a person in a position of leadership has done, it isn't as hard to be a follower when necessary, or to trust that things are in generally capable hands. Nowadays, however, the deck is stacked against this sort of attitude towards a leader from either party, in part because the press (and the opposition) is determined to cut all potential leaders down to size.

That refusal to put a leader on too high a pedestal is a good thing, and it has a long and illustrious history in this country--starting with Washington's refusal to go for a third term. But, as with so many things, balance is important. I believe the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction, and makes it hard to see whatever good really does exist in our political leaders.

How can a politician convince that he/she can lead? Churchill was an acknowledged wartime leader whose power to do so came at least partly through his stunning oratory. But we have seen that oratory is a double-edged sword--after all, Hitler is said (at least by Germans) to have been one of the greatest orators of all times, and to have exerted a strange and hypnotic spell on his listeners. I'm not a German speaker, but I find it hard to believe that Hitler's rhetorical power had anything in common with Churchill's except its power.

Of course, one of the criticisms of Bush, right from the start, has been his lack of verbal communicative skills. He's given some good speeches, but there's something in his delivery that is profoundly lacking, and it's especially lacking when he's speaking extemporaneously. Can a person exert leadership in the absence of such rhetorical abilities? I don't know, but it certainly makes the battle far more uphill.

A leader has to give off an aura of trustworthiness and strength, and I don't know exactly how that's done. Eloquence can certainly be part of it, although it can also deceive. And of course, words have to reflect more than the aura of strength and trustworthiness, it has to be the real deal. When you listen to a recording of Roosevelt actually speaking those famous words "The only thing we have to fear is, fear itself!" you can hear his own buoyant optimism come through loud and clear in his voice, and it lifts you up. Like a good parent (or leader), he comforts and reassures when it's needed the most.

Churchill was of a different sort: he spoke the worst and asked for sacrifice. Somehow, he got away with it. His personal courage was legendary, his voice an extraordinary and complex instrument that conveyed the deepest sorrow and yet the strongest determination possible. He fit the mood of his country and let them know they could endure anything, which was exactly what was needed at the moment.

When Lincoln was assassinated, the grieving poet Walt Whitman wrote the famous poem "O Captain! My Captain!" It's a lament for a leader fallen when the prize is so close at hand, a crie de cour on behalf of a nation bereft.

I'm not sure it would be possible anymore for this sort of metaphor and emotion about a leader to be expressed--or perhaps even felt--about a President. The feeling is composed of many things, but one of them is love.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up; for you the flag is flung; for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths; for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.


At 2:40 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Andrew Scotia said...

The kind of leadership I know best is the kind I learned in the military. The first aspect is called "Command Presence" and it is the kind of thing that Erving Goffman discuss in his landmark "Presentation of Self..." You need to act like a leader and exhibit the stylistic, cultural trademarks associated with "Leadership". But, we learned, that is not enough; it is just the "...strutting upon the stage..." aspect.

The really hard part comes in what is currently termed, I believe, "modeling" leadership. It demands a set of core values that inform everything you do or say. If you are internally inconsistent in this you are standing upon feet of clay. On the drill grounds no one cares what your voice sounds like but you must be understood clearly. In battle no one cares if your voice goes up two octaves because adrenaline is closing your throat.

What is important is that, when it is necessary, you will stand up, ignoring the zipping sounds of close rounds and say; "Follow me!" and than lead from the front and that those you lead will hear you and follow your example. It is the command structure, made flesh.

I believe that all aspects of leadership derive from a clear sense of self and the ability to model and communicate this understanding.

"Follow me!", the motto of the Army Infantry School.

At 2:51 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Huan said...

I think an aversion to acknowledge a leader and follow smacks of insecurity, at least of lack of self-awareness and understanding. Anyone who has acted as part of a group understands the vital need for effective leadership. Some might let their ego interfere, believing that they and only they can accomplish. Are these not the worse leaders as well as the worse followers?

To somehow believe that to follow means to be inferior is a fallacy born of insecurity. A leader is necessary to accomplish any group-based task. Why must there be any validation of worth or worthlessness associated?

When Bush was initially elected, I did not think much of him, just that he was better than the alternative of Gore. Even after 911 when he attacked Afghanistan, this was merely what any president would have done. That he directed a successful cleansing of Afghanistan says more about the military planning staff and leaders than Bush himself.

But to attack the root of terrorism with democracy, and use Iraq as the crucible I thought very bold, marking him as true leader.

At 2:53 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, we American civilians still have leaders. The Hollywood and MTV stars we cling to every word about in People magazine, the sports stars whose sweatshop-stitched shoes we shell out a hundred dollars for, the news anchors we trust to give us vital information no matter how many times they get caught forging their facts... all these people are still hailed as ubermensch that can do no wrong, by people who wouldn't trust a doctor, lawyer, or politician to tell them whether it's raining outside.

At 2:57 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger TalkinKamel said...

Actually, since Vietnam and Watergate, there hasn't been enough debunking going on---of certain sorts of leaders, that is.

The only historical figures who get debunked are conservative, military or religious ones; those who were anti-Marxist, or who were too hard on any particular movement the Leftish Boom generation adored.

The Boomers, and the Left in general, have not been nearly tough enough vis-a-vis debunking progressive "heroes", such as Margaret Sanger, Timothy Leary, the Berrigan Brothers, John Kerry, et al---not to mention communism itself, and the havoc it's wrought in the 20th Century.

Boomers---and the Left---are also, in my opinion, too adoring of, and too eager to submit to, the wrong kind of leadership. They might jeer at Nixon, or McCarthy---then they'd prostrate themselves before a Castro. They criticize oppressive traditional religion---then join some cult like the Moonies, or Scientology, far more oppressive than anything Judeo/Christianity has ever come up with!

Sadly, a lot of Boomers, and Leftwingers, appear to be looking for a father-figure, who will take care of their every need. Leaders who promise to do this for them win their love. Leaders like Churchill, who tell them what's what, and ask them to make sacrifices, earn their hatred.

At 3:10 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Knucklehead said...

Hmmmm... given your background in psychology I'm surprised you aren't familiar with at least some of the concepts and attributes of leadership.

It is a common topic of discussion in business, marketing, and management literature much of which has deep roots into the soil known (or was once upon a time anyway) as industrial psychology.

The Left is not big on leadership because they are big on concensus (all intelligent people agree) and authoritarianism (there oughta be a law or, if we can have a law, a judicial decree); or perhaps more accurate authoritarianism is ruthlessly applied until nobody dares challenge the "consensus".

Leadership lives in the real world where concensus and authoritarianism exist, and can and should be achieved and used as appropriate, but are not considered necessary pre-conditions to action and movement.

At 3:33 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a certain degree of speak-for-yourself in my reply, because I don't have a problem with leadership. I have a problem with rulership.

The examples you hold up-- Hitler, Stalin, the fictional Big Brother-- are not leaders by my defintion, but rulers. A leader leads in part by wakling first where others wish to follow, even if they don't entirely know it, yet. Implicit in my definition of leadership is the reasoned choice to follow.

This, in contrast to rulers, who make the rules such that no one can elect not to follow. While it is certainly possible to start as a leader and become a ruler, I think we're in very little danger of that here.

And for completeness, the other end of the spectrum heads toward "pure democracy," which becomes an unmanageable slog at best, and mob rule at worst; on this as with many other subjects, the Founding Fathers displayed their genius.

In that sense, "leadership" is the embodiment of modern, western republic-style governments-- more than a leader is a ruler or a tyrant, while less invites the mob.

At 4:02 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think that is Whitman's worst poem.

At 4:07 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger who, me? said...

"Sadly, a lot of Boomers, and Leftwingers, appear to be looking for a father-figure, who will take care of their every need."

Cross-refer this with today's Shrinkwrapped, on:

the narcissist's "arrogance and tendency to alternately idealize and then devalue" the authority figure,

and presto, we get the undermining chaos that marks the left's response to Bush on Katrina, international policy, you name it...

At 4:07 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, one of the reasons lefties don't like leaders--as opposed to rulers--has to do with somatotyping.
The mesomorph, bulky, muscular, athletic (and, surprise) high in testosterone, elicits following responses.
Wouldn't the weedy hippies actually prefer to be muscular, attractive to the opposite sex, athletic? Well, sure they would, but they don't have a chance, so they condemn all of it.
During the Viet Nam war, it was said by people who knew better that, "they're using football to sell the war". Others, who also knew better, nodded solemnly. If a couple of guys were throwing a football around, passing hippy wannabes could be depended upon for snarky remarks. It was okay to throw the ball around if you were studiedly awkward--grace and power were fascist--and kept an embarrrassed smile.

Colin Powell, speaking to a group at one of the service academies, told them to make themselves the kind of people soldiers would follow up a beach.
Andrew Scotia is right. Regulations will not make grunts follow a lieutenant into fire. There is nothing the military can do to a reluctant soldier that is worse, or as bad as, the results of a firefight.

IMO, leadership is scorned because of jealousy among the non-leaders of those who have "it".

"It" is not an entirely conscious thing, either among the leaders or among the followers, and so it can be dangerous. "It" must be leavened with judgment and humility.

At 4:09 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Andrew Scotia said...

It was not my intention to posit military leadership as the only form but to point out that certain concepts of leadership may well be cultural artifacts of a tribal past that is rooted in conflict.

I appreciate knucklehead's Leadership lives in the real world where consensus and authoritarianism exist, and can and should be achieved and used as appropriate, but are not considered necessary pre-conditions to action and movement. Waiting for the "right" leader is much like waiting for Godot.

But, more broadly, I think that some people choose icons as both defense mechanisms and as symbols. Very few people who wear Che t-shirts or self identify with Castro actually become guerrillas or obey El Barbaroso's latest five year plan. With the prevalence of the mass media very few of us are actually following leaders so much as adhering to our conceptions of leadership symbols. Real leadership lives somewhere else.

I've watched leadership emerge from groups. I've also been in situations where the Worker's Soviet model of "consensus" or the last man left standing at daybreak format was used. I've also been in organizations that used the floggings will continue until morale improves method. They never understood why they had such high turnover rates.

Symbolic leaders do not demand actions. They can be anything we want them to be. Real leaders may require actions either through organizational structures or through our perceptions of what they would want of us. If Winnie says, "Blood, sweat and tears, then by God..." In the first kind of leadership we can often vote with our feet and leave or like the military in the post Vietnam era just fall apart from non-compliance. In the second we demand actions of ourselves.

At 4:42 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary Renault, the late novelist of the classical age--and before--wrote a book called The King Must Die in which she referred to the Indo-European tradition--which is a bit sketchy--that, on occasion, the king must sacrifice himself, including suicide, if that's what it takes for the people to prevail.
One might see that in the continuing requirement for useless European royalty to wear uniforms at every opportunity. Among other things, they can't go into trade, but the symbolism that they stand ready to sacrifice themselves for the people goes beyond simply finding a profession that is honorable for their station.

H. L. Mencken, in his Treatise on The Gods spoke of hypothetical ancient beginnings of beliefs in personal supernatural individuals, as opposed to general magic, and suggested that the figure of "the Old Man as he heaved into battle before them" was one starting point.
We have no idea, of course, but the concept of leader in the western sense includes the requirement to stand up for the group. Rulers don't do this.

At 5:00 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Knucklehead said...


Implicit in my definition of leadership is the reasoned choice to follow.

This is a key point. I don't want to dwell on the single word "follow" but if you'll allow it I'd like to suggest changing "follow" to "contribute toward attainment" or something similar.

As much as some of us might wish for a redoubling of efforts among our leaders we must also look within and redouble our commitment to follow and to lead where possible.

Leadership does not always require "from the front" - a leader is not always saying "follow me!" Especially not if we expand the context beyond conflict. Leaders, even more often than saying "follow me", say something akin to "go forth and attain..."

The key lies as much in the so called "followers" as it does in the leader. It is clear that the more reknowned leaders often articulate some vision, some place if you will, that others commit themselves to contribute to attaining. This is not, however, universally the case and even when it is it is not always within sight or mind.

"Win the war" or "beat the Germans" or "make the sales goal" are, for at least much of the effort, goals and objectives beyond immediate attainment.

They are, for much of the duration of the effort, not the things that really drive people to either lead or follow. It is the personal, reasoned commitment that drives people to both lead and follow through all the grinding difficulties and challenges. There is an implicit bond of trust that is built and nurtured between leader and follower. It allows for continuing on in the face of setbacks, it allows for accepting that sometimes it in necessary to move backward in order to become better positioned to move forward.

And it is the refusal to commit to attainment, or sometimes commitment to preventing attainment, which makes leadership in the larger cases - like being POTUS - so intensely difficult. If, on a good day, 48% of the population of "followers" is determined not to follow or, worse yet, to be obstructionist, leadership is a long, hard slog. When we have a further portion of the population whose commitment is soft or, worse yet, fickle, the problem is even more difficult. When there are would be leaders in direct opposition and siezing upon the commitment of followers to obstruct, or preying upon the softness and fickleness, things get tougher still.

The problems we face today with this lack of commitment to the GWoT is not so much one of lack of leadership as it is one of lack of "reasoned commitment to follow" and opportunistic leadership from those who want to prevent the attainment of the goals and objectives.

At 5:25 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

I think that there is much about present-day higher education that discourages the development of leadership and of followership. This is especially true of the so-called "elite" institutions.

Read these comments by an Army lieutenant about her experiences at Harvard. Note especially this:

"(At Harvard), the emphasis is on the individual--the "me", the "I," and the "mine." It is difficult to explain a group obligation to people who idolize the first person singular."

Kind of the opposite of the "follow me" ethos.

At 5:33 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

You are quite correct, Knucklehead, that I'm no expert on industrial psychology. My graduate degree is in marriage and family therapy, quite a different kettle of fish, and my undergraduate degree (psychology) focused on individual psychology (learning and memory, developmental, personality, etc.)

kung fu: I've never been a Whitman fan, myself. I am, however, quite fond of this one.

At 5:49 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Knucklehead said...

Neo, I should have stopped and thought about your profession. Individuals, marriages, and families are small units with very different psychological matters at work. I'm no expert, or even remotely knowledgable about psychology. My entire exposure, except for 101 many years ago, is the "industrial" or organizational variety.

Then again, I'm not convinced there's a great need for family or marriage psychology. It all seems simple to me. Just do what mother or wife tells you to do and all will be sane enough - where's the difficulty ;)

At 6:02 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read "The Reason Why" by Cecil Woodham Smith and see how Lord Cardigan led the charge of the light brigade. Cardigan bought his commission.
Then read "Masters of Chaos" by Linda Robinson and see how military leadership has changed in 150 years. The leadership within the unit--whether platoon, squad, battalion, regiment or army--is dogmatic, but the unit itself functions freely as the unit commander--whether private or general--sees fit for the situation. And that unit commander pays a horrible price if he's wrong. That's leadership.

Politicians don't lead. Their one job in life is to get elected and then stay elected, although sometimes the responsibility to lead falls out of the sky. It dropped on Bush and so far, sesquipedalia verba notwithstanding, he has led quite well.
"Authentic Leadership" by Bill George is a great guide to business leadership, and should work well for all non-military leaders. Mark

At 6:10 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Ah yes, Knucklehead--but the "difficulty" is that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink :-).

Anonymous at 6:02 PM: I think Clinton is one of the best examples ever of a consummate politician who had virtually no real leadership skills.

At 6:41 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

A friend in the radical early 70's went to a Little Ivy college, where he was the quarterback. I asked him why he had stuck with football, given its regimented, militaristic nature and his anti-authoritarian one. "It was the only place on the Williams campus where people were working together to accomplish anything." Interesting.

Lord of The Rings makes for a wonderful study in constrasting leaderships. I've always meant to getting around to writing about it.

At 7:54 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger antimedia said...

A leader is someone who is the front.

At 8:37 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A leader carries all the burdens and takes all the hits yet continues onward.

At 8:58 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger Promethea said...

Don't you think there's something babyish about people still expecting Bush to be a good speaker? He's shown over and over that he isn't a good speaker, and yet he's shown over and over that he has staying power and the imagination to reorient American foreign policy.

Just like the people who are "tired" of the war, even though they haven't personally lifted a finger, so are the people who demand perfection in their President, including eloquence. The man can fly a fighter jet, for G-d's sake. That's pretty impressive.

I guess I've been more than fed up lately with childish Americans posing as adults.

/OK, ending rant now.

At 9:24 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember that Lincoln was despised by quite a few people in the North, not to mention the South. His passing was mourned by many, but I have no doubt it was celebrated by quite a few.

Kennedy was mourned by many as well. Led by the MSM, which no doubt saw in him a Utopian future for the Nation as well as the World, the political classes acted as though Kennedy was on equal footing with Lincoln.

I think we will not see that kind of mourning for any other than a leader of the Left, in a long, long time.

At 9:41 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By vitruvius's definition, a ruler seems to be nothing more than a leader who's willing to kill anyone who opposes him.

If you let them be leaders long enough, all leaders eventually become rulers.

At 10:02 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger dloye said...

Baby Boomer that I am, the main trait I would like to see in an leader is a sense of direction. Better yet if it's a direction I'd like to go. Most politicians are bloviating vote mongers, special interest wooers, and none of that is where I want to go.

At 10:14 PM, November 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Promethea: "I guess I've been more than fed up lately with childish Americans posing as adults."

You ain't the only one P, you ain't the only one.

That the children don't realize the real threat is the most disturbing of all -- this isn't a HDL:LDL ratio thing, afterall...

At 10:52 PM, November 21, 2005, Blogger newc said...

Very introspective column, neo.

At 9:41 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Knucklehead said...


Don't you think there's something babyish about people still expecting Bush to be a good speaker?

There's something intensely sophomoric in the continuing denegration of Bush about this.

For a while I was convinced it was just people being confused about the difference between erudition and articulation. Bush is weak on the former but strong on the latter. We know precisely what he means regardless of the fractured syntax and malaprops. He is articulate but not erudite.

This is not the least bit uncommon and is quite common even among intelligent, educated, accomplished people. It is also quite common to find erudite people who are not particularly articulate. John Kerry is a good example of this. He frequently blathers on eruditely and leaves the listener with no clue what he said. Erudite but inarticulate.

I've long been perplexed by those who ridicule Bush about this matter. I cannot think of a single example of him speaking when what he was saying was not abundantly clear. I've come to the conlusion that there are several things at work here.

One thing at work is the sophomoric notion that one demonstrates one's intellectual capacity by verbally running around and inspecting every nook and cranny of a topic. This is an attempt to demonstrate the breadth and depth of one's intellect. What it ultimately demonstrates is that one cannot get to the point, seperate the important from the unimportant or that which can be effected from that which cannot.

Another thing I think is at work here is something I consider to be residue from the "greatest generation" - my parent's generation. That generation brought the US from a nation where completing HS was somewhat unusual to a nation where attending, even completing, college was relatively common. The Greatest Generation, or large swaths of it anyway, used careful diction and syntax (erudition) to mark themselves as "educated" so that they might readily distinguish those who were from those who weren't. Over time I believe they've over-emphasized this and have promoted it to a marker of "intelligence" rather than "education".

I find it fun and instructive, when ridicule of Bush for his fractured syntax and malaprops is raised, to ask the ridiculer what it was he said that they cannot understand. The fun comes in when the ridiculer is left stammering inarticulately trying to explain. The instructive part comes in when ridiculer finally gets on track and goes down a path which leads them to demonstrate that they either have poor listening skills and/or are simply snobs.

People are quite adept at "projecting". Those who so readily ridicule Bush for his lack of erudition refuse to acknowledge his articulateness. They cannot accep that he said what he meant and meant what he said. They need to project something else upon his words. The same happens for supporters of inarticulate speakers like Kerry. They admire the erudition but cannot accept the inarticulateness. Therefore they must project meaning upon his words that was not there.

Fascinating, IMO. Thanks for bringing it up. Way OT, but fascinating.

At 9:49 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Knucklehead said...

From reading some of the commentary it seems to me that some people view leader/follower as a binary condition - one is a leader OR one is a follower, but not both.

That is, of course, preposterously simplistic. There are very few, if any, leaders who are not also following a leader "further up the chain". And those who follow are frequently engaged in leading.

Context matters.

At 11:13 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

On the subject of articulateness and leadership, see my post Is John Kerry Smart?

At 11:47 AM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

We should be able to contrast Carter -- not much of a leader -- with Reagan, a clear conservative leader.

Were Carter to focus on the (mostly excellent) Habitat for Humanity, he would be a fine and honest ex-pres., instead of being a "useful idiot."

The Left likes personalities; even cults, as the personification of the current PC fad.

Still, Steve Jobs seems one of the better "leader" types among the Left. Pope John Paul II was an even greater leader.

Leadership is important -- but requires followership.

At 6:21 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Bold leaders inspire bold followers.

Leaders that inspire confidence are leaders that have confident followers.

Leaders that keep their word have followers that have little doubt.

Leaders that can impart their vision have followers
that know where they are going.

At 6:50 PM, November 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A leader is someone willing to take risks for his/her constituents. That includes Andrew's military model ("ignoring the zipping sounds of close rounds"). That implies acting for the benefit of others, taking risks to one's own safety/reputation. A good leader also must have the will to win whatever contest he/she and his/her constituents are engaged in.

At 7:10 PM, November 22, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Now, who in American wants to be a follower? Practically no one. Individualism was built into this country from the start, and the distaste for a leader in that sense is not limited to the left--it's very strong on the right, too. The idea of "leader" is too close to royalty on the one hand and to dictatorship on the other.

In the military sense, leadership has little to do with political hindsight foibles, phobia, or other conditions of human thought and behavior.

Human society is both a congruently social one, with teamwork emphasized, as well as a purely heirarchical structure in which individual accomplishments and Alpha Male positions exist and are valued.

If you look at Japan, you will clearly see quite a lot of emphasis on teamwork, but you will also see a lot of emphasis on personal duty, honor, and loyalty.

The military has had to deal with this human nature without the blinders that politicians and businessmen tend to have on. Because the military cannot afford inefficiency because of some political correct SOP.

Therefore, the military has had to recognize that while you need officers (leaders) you also need people to carry out the officer's orders and enforce them (NCOs) without the leaders having to look over the underling's shoulder all the time (lack of initiative).

Initiative is a good thing, pure automation would actually be the result of poor leadership.

As such, leadership in its maximum form is actually a way of imposing Order on Chaos, without stagnation, entropy, or decay.

You get the structured purposefullness of a cohesive unit of people working for a common goal, but you don't destroy the individual diversity, intiative, and ingenuity that composes this unit. As such, Americans have clearly followed other people in our history, simply based upon the fact that the leaders proved to be both worth the trust, and had the same goals as they did.

Here, you see the heirarchy. The boss is treated as more important than the employee, but without the employee, the boss can't really do anything.

But you can't make equal the boss and the employee, because humans are not consensual folks, they don't operate as bees do.

The lack of leaders tend to result from the fact that to lead free men and women, you have to both show your respect for their dignity as well as prove that you are actually better than they are.

And that is quite hard to do, to convince men and women born in liberty, that someone is better than they are, that that person should be admired and respected and obeyed.

This brings me to the other point, which is Bush's lack of articulation.

Someone else made the point that everyone understands Bush's point. While that is true, the problem lies in the fact that Bush never goes up to the media and makes his point unless he absolutely has to. This is sort of like with polls, he doesn't use them unless he absolutely has to, sort of like on election night. Even then, he leaves that number crunching to Karl Rove.

Let me tell you people this, a President can't allow his public image to be "delegated" to underlings.

The American people can't be expected to follow the press secretary, Rumsfield, Conny, the White House press corps, or talking heads. They want to hear their President, and they want to know what he is doing, is planning to do, and thinks of us, the American people.

That is sort, of non-trivially hard to do when Bush ignores and subliminates, and absolutely avoids for the most part any media attention or giving speeches to the press.

The less he talks, Bush, the more time the media has to spin his words and make him say something that he actually didn't.

This makes the public distrust the media, true, but it also makes the public distrust Bush because we can't be sure of what he is thinking since he avoids the press.

He can't avoid the press without also shunning the American people.

His highest approval ratings where when America could see him face to face, talk about the issues that they were concerned about, and afterwards see that his words backed up his action.

Free men and women don't follow promises, they follow men and women of character.

People can be tired of others criticizing Bush for not being a great speech giver, but the fact is, that this deficiency and lack of communication is hurting the war effort both domestically and foreign wise.

Foreign affairs probably actually have a higher sense of confidence, because Bush has more direct dialogues with foreign people and our military in foreign countries, than Bush has with the American people on national television.

If anyone thinks that just traveling over the country is enough, doing face to face conversations, they will have to realize that the power of persuasion lies in national debates, not provincial ones.

Just compare Ronald Reagan, Churchill and Clinton's speeches/radio addresses to Bush's. You will see that Bush does the radio, but ignores anything else. The 21st century is not a "Radio century", enough people have televisions now. They had enough in Kennedy's time.

Bush supporters should not be hostile to articulate and meaningful national tv presentations just because Bush isn't good at having a dialogue with the American people, the lack of which is propounded upon by Bush's critics. It did not hurt Reagan nor does it hurt Arnold to have a charismatic national tv persona, and neither should anyone else who wants to support Bush believe that this lack on Bush's part is all that great an advantage in the long run.

At 12:29 AM, November 23, 2005, Blogger Jeff with one 'f' said...

The media have so relentlessly focused on Bush's lack of verbal ability because it is their main yardstick for measuring the world. Journalists manipulate words for a living; to them "verbal" intelligence is the only kind that matters.

The fact that Bush holds degrees from Yale and Harvard and was a licensed jet pilot doesn't rate as much as Clinton's ability to coin the lawyerly usage,
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

At 9:25 AM, November 23, 2005, Blogger cakreiz said...

Between cocooning in the suburbs, extolling anti-heroes in film and television and worshipping at the alter of self, is it any wonder that were lousy followers? I scanned comments saying that leaders don't lead. It's very difficult to lead when no one is following. The 60s was a mixed blessing, great for civil and women's rights. But this is the downside of 'do your own thing.'

At 11:11 PM, November 23, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Peggy Noonan talks about following a Spiritual Father -- Pope John Paul II.

I think Bush should plan press conferences, with notes.


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