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Chapter 3: Leadership


This Chapteris closely tied into the preceding one on civic activity. Activity is the basis of leadership, of course; leadership is the proven effect, the supply of initiative and group movement, resulting from personal activity. (The quip about the Talmudic scholar refers to the method of teaching by question and answer that ultimately makes the right to ask question the sign of authority; Leo Rosten's book, The Joys of Yiddish (McGraw-Hill, 1968), has amusing examples of interchanges by question.)


I've found it helpful but annoying to students to ask why they want to know a fact and what is their goal when they verbally or really start work on any project. It is always surprising, and a criticism of the life-style of many academicians, that so much is undertaken with so little in mind. Better a trenchant question than a dozen answers, if the answers do not relate to much. I often ask students to write questions for each other rather than to answer questions; it sometimes irritates them, ostensibly because they "are not learning anything," but really because they have to expose themselves, their true interests, and the way in which their minds are working.

Regarding the "applied science of do-nothing," greatness in politics as in other fields often lies in selecting those decisions that must be made and deciding which decisions are not to be made, deciding upon nondecisions. I think that FDR exemplified this. Much hysteria and panic are intrinsic to politics, both in characterologically self-selective ways and in the nature of the game; leaders are often defeated in their attempts to make nondecisions.

Or in their attempts to suppress sheer busy-ness. A small example: while managing a campaign in California one time, I found myself confronted by a group of our well educated activists who insisted that they should hold an elaborate rummage sale to raise a few dollars which anyone of them could have paid out of pocket at that very instant. Blessed be the leader who doesn't have to keep busy and whose followers do not need to be kept busy.


Proposition III begins an elaborate process of showing how leadership is teamwork, good or bad. The network on this page, by the way, is a little joke; it is a molecular structure taken from a book on chemistry.


Here I discuss the model of "Two Equal Coalition Leaderships." Depending upon your special interests, you may wish to work out the Allies-Entente balance in World War I, two-party coalitions in a national government, the White House-State-Defense leadership combinations under different presidents, etc. The model is highly schematic and basically a guide to thought; reality is almost impossibly complex in this area.


I have not stressed the frequent failures of leaders. Richard Nixon was counted out of the running several times before he became President. Abraham Lincoln's failures in business, marriage and politics are proverbial. Randolph Churchill wrote of the famed British Prime Minister D'Israeli that his career was "failure, failure, failure, partial success, renewed failure, ultimate and complete triumph."


Apropos the poems of Ezra Pound, students of literature in the class should be able to come up with examples from different ages and countries. The exile of Ovid for his pornographic Art of Love by the Roman Emperor Augustus is a starter. (Some say Ovid had some more sinister knowledge.)


The comments on the sexist personal pronouns aren't the last word on women. There's more on pages 198-201. Ask your students this question: Is it harder to change the world than to change a pronoun?


How do we get 20 million groups? If every student in class lists shis groups and each one averages ten or so apiece (family, dormitory or house-group, classes, church, social, college, political, work, occupational, etc.), and if we have some notion of their size, we can extend the results to 210 million people (not all equally joiners). The figure doesn't seem large. The true figure is fantastically large, but we have no valid way to measure it.


Obedience is a dirty word, so it's time for a little group therapy: Why do people hate the notions of "an obedient child," "an obedient servant," "an obedient soldier," "an obedient student," "an obedient citizen"? And "follower" (yecch!)? And "docile," which used to mean "can be taught something"? What word can they accept? "Understanding," "faithful," "loyal," "devoted," "sympathetic," etc.??


Americans often reconcile their antiauthoritarianism with their worship of charismatic leadership by the use of nicknames and first names; foreigners often comment on this, uncomprehendingly. Names conjure up traits, and traits lend names, the two processes interacting to convey or express the impression of some skill or quality in a person. "Honest Abe," "Big Al," "Tricky Dick," "Happy Dan." Since a lot of people have very little to judge leaders by except their names and have some prejudices besides, family names can cause trouble. Would Spiro Agnew have been nominated Vice-President of a United States whose people--whether from Chickamauga, Schenectady, or Walla Walla--like to elect Johnsons and Smiths, if his father had not changed the family name from Anagnostopoulos? The original Greek is actually good for an egalitarian democracy; it means "Son of the Unknown One," that is, Mr. Anonymous" or "Mr. Anybody," or "John Doe." (To be sure, most Americans could not spell Rosenvelt or Eisenhauer correctly. Try them out on your college class. And Iowans had some Freudian reason for electing Mr. Hickenlooper Senator and Governor.

In other countries the problem of mass appeal has also coaxed out simplifications. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili thought "Stalin" (steel) would get him further in life, and so it did. Adolf, with some choice of fathers, preferred "Hitler" to "Schicklgruber." I was a little worried about General Kittikachorn, chief of Thailand; even though he had the bayonets, he would not permit "Kitty." The governor of New York answers, in the headlines at least, to "Rocky," which makes "Rockefeller" easier to handle, and also makes $500 million seem almost equal to the take-home pay of the average Daily News reader.


Where annual elections end, tyranny begins. The italicized sentences refer to the applied politics of charisma. We note that the techniques for controlling charisma are difficult to apply, especially if we bear in mind that the situational or group theory of leadership suggests that a group be replaced. It is easier to succumb to charisma than to say, "Okay, your turn is over and your team goes off the field; we have to bring in a new team now." We need standby teams to reassure people, but how do you find them, keep them in training, and keep them from running onto the field ahead of time? Some ancient peoples put their kings to death, really or symbolically, annually. Is this a way?


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