It’s time to talk about leadership.
One of the things wrong with the world is the way we desire and even expect a single person to come along and make everything ok. As social beings we form into groups, and start to get incredibly anxious about it all. “Where are we going?” and “Who will make this place safe for me?” are the questions we ask. We seek the answer in a single person.
The questions are good. The answer is a problem.
There seems to be something fundamentally naïve about human nature, that believes that despite the complexity of relationships, social forms and power dynamics, one person can magically make it all ok. This belief belies the very nature of how people work and interact together. Our social forms are systems: multi-inputted, inter-generational, infinitely feedbacked, wildly complex systems. One person is one person. They have a part to play (and often an important one), but it is just a part.
So we lie to ourselves – and it’s a very obvious lie – about how one person can take responsibility for and ‘lead’ these crazy complex social realities. Why do we do this? I have concluded that it’s because we don’t want to take responsibility. If we tell ourselves that it’s someone else’s responsibility, then we are not accountable for any of the outcomes.
In fact, we are all responsible for the social systems we are in, and their outcomes. We are all responsible for leaders who don’t listen, for voices that get shut out, for misogyny, for racism and for everything else we get angry about.
This is because we have helped to create these systems. Often we do this by claiming to relinquish our responsibility. We don’t want the blame for when things go wrong, and so we pretend that we don’t have any power. We let moments of injustice slide, we let situations of exploitation continue.
We actually give up our power. And we buy into a myth that blames the leader, and puts all faith in the appointment of a new leader.
So I say: let’s stop blaming leaders, and let’s start taking responsibility for our own social realities. This is true of our workplaces, our schools, our churches, our society, our global community.
It’s time to give up the privileges of saying and doing nothing. These are the social kickbacks associated with giving up our power: whether it is wealth, security, social standing, status in an organisation, status in your social role.
“Where are we going?”
“We decide – and that includes you.”
“Who will make this place safe for me?”
“We will – and that includes you.”
Does this mean that we are all leaders? I think it does. In one way or another, we are all called to lead.