Taking Steps Toward Leadership–Qualities that hamper

There are times when you know that the leader you have is going to lead you off a cliff and there’s nothing you can do about it.   They have a clear vision; they know how to navigate from point A to point B; they understand the process; they get a team together that buys into their vision; and they run the boat into the sandbar.  They serve everyone the Kool-aid.   They inspire people to blow themselves up for the cause.  How can they be leaders and care nothing for their followers?  Believe it or not, some of the leaders care deeply for their followers and because the leaders are deluded they think what they are doing for their followers benefits them, even if the followers die.

Let’s take a look at some.

The first type I’d like to explore are the leaders who seek only power.  Think Voldemort… “There IS no Good or Evil…Only Power and those too weak to use it.”  Most people think that the leader is the one with the power.  The fact is that the leader is one who draws people with power to him.  He is powerful because he has powerful people.  The leader attracts people of wisdom, people with resources, people with connections.  Solomon was considered the most powerful leader and influential king in the early Middle Eastern countries.  He was supposed to possess great wisdom, and he did but then ignored it.  No leader in and of himself can possess wisdom AND resources AND connections.  Those items require very different skills to accumulate.  What does power feel like?  It is the feeling that anything you do or say is acted upon immediately.  It is the feeling that you only get what you want and not what you don’t want.  This is NEVER the case.  The more you control, the more control you have to enforce.

Let’s say that you are in control of a 5th grade class.  (Well that’s impossible to start with, but we’ll continue…)  You tell them to do their class work and you have one that doesn’t.  You exercise your control by punishment or banishment.  The rest of the class makes value judgments on your decision and compare it to the actual infraction of the student.  They agree or don’t agree with you.  The ones that don’t agree immediately challenge your right to call down your wrath upon this student.  Now you have 10 things to control.  You banish them or punish them and you spend all of your time making sure they stay banished or you have to continue punishing them.  Now the ones that agreed with you turn against you because of 2 reasons:  1) they now disagree with your methods and 2) you are now paying more attention to miscreants than the good ones in the class.

Same scenario, different approach.  You tell them to do their class work and one decides not to comply.  As a person seeking absolute control of a situation, and knowing that if you single one out for the infraction, it multiplies the bad behavior, so instead of punishing just the one student, you punish the whole class, then shift the blame for the unpleasant circumstances to that one student.  At first, the students rag on the one student that didn’t comply.  You go merrily along.  But the more you apply this approach, the more resistance you will face.  One of the leaders in the classroom (the real leader, not you) suggests that since it only takes one person to punish the whole class, why would anyone behave?   When you come into class, they riot.  Every day.  For a week.  They become immune to your punishments.

You cannot have absolute power.  It will evade you.  Seeking a leadership role to gain and hold power will lead you and your followers off a cliff.

What is amusing about this scenario is that every teacher has to deal with it.  It is not just elementary classrooms either!  It involves Junior High, High School and College classrooms as well!  AND YET, in educational methods classes they still teach content and methods, not classroom control.  Why?  Because Nobody Knows How to control a classroom.  In every scenario, the neo-teacher faces a room full of children with their hands in their laps, their eager young faces smiling and waiting on the words of their beloved teacher to inspire them to greater heights of knowledge.  They are obviously not teaching arithmetic or music.  (In actuality, most music classes for elementary students are considered by administration, parents, the school board and other teachers, to be indoor recess with corporate games that involve some type of aural stimulus.  This music class allows real teachers to go to the break room and have enough coffee to brace themselves for the onslaught of those unsmiling, un-eager faces that shoot spitballs and complain about homework.)

If we go back to the Voldemort illustration, you see throughout the books that he is universally feared and is seeking power, not only over the magic community but the non magic as well.  He looks for the ultimate tool–the elder wand–to wield the most force in order to command the most people.  He makes use of torture, fear, and elimination of his nemesis (Dumbledoor) to cement his power.  The harder he squeezes, the more intense resistance he faces.  His greatest triumph is when he believes he’s killed a 17-year-old student.  What kind of triumph is that?  He had someone else kill Dumbledoor; he didn’t do the deed himself.  Which person had the most power?  The headmaster and most accomplished wizard, Dumbledoor?  Or the inexperienced student with the power of “right” behind him, who didn’t seek leadership, who didn’t seek power or glory, but only freedom from murder and mayhem, from oppression, and from mental slavery, namely Harry Potter?  Voldemort’s path to power was not in his wizarding capabilities, which were considerable, but in killing anyone who stood in his path, whether they were truly powerful or merely an annoyance.  He was so busy in cementing his power structure, that several of his followers abandoned his cause.  He was so focused on defeating his nemesis, which was Harry, that he paid no attention to the gathering power that enabled the whole society to turn against him and defeat him and his followers.  It was like stopping a leak in a dam.  You put one finger here, another there, your nose there, your toes there and suddenly you’re out of appendages and the dam breaks anyway.

Those that seek power for power’s sake rarely have the capability to hold it for long.  Beware the leader that only wants the power of the position:  the corner office, the gold name plate, the biographies, the news stories, and the absolute decision making power granted by his position.  They do anything and everything to maintain the illusion that they have absolute power, and in doing so, they lose it, and the whole organization suffers for it.

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