Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Leadership

Leadership is that capacity which inspires a following.  Not gathers.  Not reasons.  Not convinces.  Inspires.  Socrates was a poor leader, and Jesus.  These were teachers.  Socrates lives only because--even after being executed by the majority--one of his few adherents happened to be a literary genius, Jesus because--even after being executed by the majority--his small band garbled the message sufficiently for a Leader--Paul--to reduce it to soundbites.  
A leader may still be right, just, or correct. Soviet dissidents probably were; American Communists certainly weren’t; both genuinely believed in the power of contrarian visions to cure the pathologies of their respective motherlands--to similarly disappointing effect.  A random walk from reality suggests that the Leader most likely will be though almost certainly will not be reasonable. A capacity to reason and discern erodes the confidence of others, and only with absolute confidence in one’s powers can a person inspire a following.  Yet, the rightness of the prospective Leader’s unequivocal message remains a factor.  Most men are probably more likely to turn themselves over to a cause or idea that comports to the world their parents bequeathed them.  For this reason, leaders who find themselves on the side that a majority of men in most times and in most places would consider to be more right or good may inspire a following disproportionate to their natural gifts, thus skewing the scorecard of history.  
However, a search for a suitable example has stolen five minutes of typing time without offering a single archetype--neither Nat Turner nor John Brown could round up more than a few dozen righteous fanatics; General Dwight D. Eisenhower was lucky enough to direct an army against absolute evil, something nobody on the Allied side really could have know until after the war (were there Churchillian voices as early as 1933? Yes, most of them singing a song learned from their parents in 1914, their parents having learned it from their parents in 1870, and so on back to Joshua’s conquest of The Land); Lincoln was really too sensible to lead, though his is a nice example of self amusement combining with industrial capacity to eventually defeat passionately intense Leadership.  
Let us pause here.  Again, a clear message falling somewhere to the happy side of generally accepted mores of morality ought to prove compelling enough to restrain most peoples from killing themselves and others--this can hardly be reckoned unto their Kings and Presidents as Leadership.  Only those so consistent and convincing, so committed and blind that they inspire a change of anticipated course, can safely be classified as Leaders.  Often, we in The West call such men Monsters.  Stalin, completely convinced of History’s destination, inspired in children sufficient conviction for them to climb watchtowers and shoot at those of their parasitic parents sufficiently starving to attempt an escape from the Kolkhoz.  Mao marched his followers across a continent, then, even a decade later, retained the capacity to compel them to compel a few hundred million peasants to beat their plowshares into smelters, weeding out a few million more parasitic tares.  Hitler could convince the heirs of Goethe, Schiller, and Kant that--even if it looked like a human being, talked (in the case of 3% of them, in German even!) like a human being, walked like a human being, trucked and bartered and ate and sexed and shat like a human being--any humanoid that ceased its study at the the book of Matthew was in fact a parasite.  This--the willingness and ability to inspire comparatively large numbers of men to do what they otherwise would not--is Leadership.  (Not to be confused with a few dodos flocking together; the president of the Flat Earth Society is not a leader.)

Q: What, besides a capacity for single-mindedness, makes a Leader?  
A: Beyond much natural charisma and blind confidence, very little.  

Q: What, then, makes for single-mindedness?  
A: The incapacity to think a thought’s opposite; the emotional immaturity to find any honesty in all opponents’ arguments; a bland curiosity sated with repetitive soundbites.  

Q: By definition then, are all Leaders idiots?  
A: Heavens no--one can ace the ACT and LSAT, buy into the bourgeoisie, make millions of computer-screen dollars, and raise successful children, all without any capacity for critical thought.  

Q: By definition then, are all leaders smart?  
A: Relative to the common man, yes; relative to anyone tolerant enough to read this far, no.  

Q: Happy is the man intelligent enough to manipulate the common man while ingenuous enough to remain convinced of his own indispensable goodness?  
A: Yes, and well remunerated too.  

Q: Do leaders do anything useful?  
A: Absolutely.  If not for the devout Christian oil executive’s dual conviction that an Invisible Hand guides the human proclivity to truck and barter towards the most efficient use of all resources (as evidenced by his own annual compensation) and that a Still Small Spirit  remains ready to return on a Flaming Chariot when the Time comes, humankind would have no hope of surviving the next meteor.  True, depleted soils and a thickening atmosphere and proliferating arsenals might prematurely doom the human biological accident to extinction, but without the capacity to imagine that perhaps the universe is nothing more than a timeless, expanding collection of atoms that may in a few billion years collapse back in on itself, the Yahweh-fearing oil executive drives his fellow man to confront the sorts of existential crises that may well prepare him to innovate his way out of the next millennium’s approaching asteroid, if not--if necessary--the next score billion years’ cosmic collapse.