“Follow the leader.” was one of our childhood games. We took turns and did whatever the leader did. There was never any question about where the leader came from or if they could be trusted. Everyone got a turn at being leader. It is amazing that given the impact a so called “leader” can have on a community, an organization, a nation or the planet; that we don’t think more about what being a leader really means. What moves a person to being in a leadership position and what qualifies one to be called a leader and to be followed.
Something Larry Olsen, author of Outdoor Survival Skills and a respected authority on survival, said in a talk many years ago is quite relevant to this discussion; “If a 100 people were in a plane that crashed and all survived, three groups would emerge.” He said the largest group would be capable in varying degrees but by nature were followers. The remaining two groups were potential leaders. The individuals in one group would step back, assess everyone and see how they would help insure the survival of that would be leader. These folks tend to be loudmouth and pompous. The individuals in the remaining group are by nature quieter, would also step back, assess everyone’s skills and see how they could work together for the survival of everyone. In Larry’s scenario and one that I have seen play out over and over is that the power lies with the followers and who they choose to follow. Larry said the followers invariably choose the egoistic leader and follow him to their undoing.
As a long time activist and one who has run numerous times for public office, has a background in wilderness survival, disaster management: I have seen Larry’s numbers play out in numerous scenarios. In some instances it wasn’t a matter of having chosen the leader, but in continuing to follow someone in a position of power, just because they held the position, even if there leadership was endangering others; following the leader, just because they are called leader. I have also seen another scenario which I will address later.
As I was starting this essay, I came upon this gem in a PEERS posting. “Psychopathy is not a rare phenomenon. Dr. Hare estimates that psychopaths consist of 1% of the population. Other psychologists have estimates as high as 4%. That represents between 3 and 12 million Americans, millions of which are … residing in positions of power with a psychological need to control and manipulate others. They are drawn to occupations that allow them to wield power over others, such as police, military, intelligence, and finance.” ~~ From Chapter 3 of Timothy Silver’s landmark book Lifting the Veil
We seldom ask ourselves where these leaders come from. What drives them to be in leadership positions? Are they motivated by a desire to serve or a desire to have power over others? Being a leader has consequences and the more power and authority one has in a position of leadership the more serious can the impacts of their decisions be. If people truly have an option to choose their leaders, one would think they would choose the one that would serve the greater good, but that seems not to be the rule. It is said that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”, but in many cases it looks as if the corruptive forces may have already been a part of the power personality. In 2016 neither the Democrats nor the Republicans gave us a better choice; I voted for Jill Stein.
With the election of Donald Trump and his potential cabinet appointees: interesting times have certainly gotten more interesting. I’ve learned through the years not to jump to conclusions, to reason rather than react, breathe deep and then take a look. We shall see. I remember feeling much the same angst when Ronald Reagan was elected President and Senator Frank Church lost to a less honorable and capable Steve Symms.
It was after the 1982 mid-elections that I really got my awakening about leadership and power. The Republicans had taken control of the Senate and Idaho’s Jim McClure became chair of the senate energy and natural resources committee. I was in Washington, DC lobbying against more nuclear waste coming to Idaho and the building of a component of the nuclear weapons system being proposed for the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, the new production reactor. After making my presentation and giving him a copy of petitions from people all over Idaho; McClure told me straight out “We’ve in power now, we’ll do what we want.”
Well we, the people, stopped the new production reactor and so far have done a pretty good job of keeping Idaho from becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Though that is a battle that never ends and we are now in a very tenuous situation with the people we have in high office in Idaho and with Trump’s election.
An old activist slogan reads, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” This is the scenario I mentioned earlier and which I’ve seen play numerous times as well. One thing about egotistical leaders, they want to be on the winning side for the most part, that is where they get their egos feed. One should not assume, that because we may or may not have crazed ideologues at the helm of state, that all is lost. We, the people, can make a difference; we can in fact take what might have been a losing situation and turn it into a winning one.
This is not the time to despair, there is too much at stake. This is a time to get real, and by that I mean to get real with ourselves. What are our values, what is most important for our well being, that of our families, our communities, our state, our nation, the Earth? What kind of people are we? What kind of world do we want to leave our children and our children’s children? We can’t leave it up to our supposed leaders; they may not have our best interest in mind.
To quote Stephen Gaskin from his book Monday Night Classes
“We are the People
We are this Season’s People
There are no other People this Season
If We blow it, it’s blown”