The world is crying out for a new kind of leadership, which is making it a much-debated topic. I like the way some of the discussion has gone, that leadership isn’t limited to a handful of charismatic men and women doing remarkable things, but can be about anybody, and doesn’t have to make the papers.
For me, the essence of leadership is Mysterious, and far from formulaic. This makes it a very delicate issue, and prone to being turned to stone, especially when too much standard discussion and analysis helps me to look in the wrong places for leaders and mentors. Many of the beings with the most to offer perhaps do not think or care about notions of leadership, and have therefore been absent from much of the leadership debate.
I now view many mentors I had in the past more as Herders than Leaders. Herders are authoritative administrators, with clear visions (visions do not necessarily have to be inspiring), whose job is usually (or becomes) to protect and expand business as usual. They are basically sheep who have stepped up to lead the other sheep – a diluted form of leadership which is popular because it is obvious and requires less effort.
They have plenty of sheepdogs at their service. The concept of a career is a good sheepdog. So is advertising, social pressure, rewards, praise or simply privilege of position (I’m your FATHER!! Do as I say).
The phenomena I am increasingly noticing and responding to are probably better called Heralds rather than Leaders. There the Herald stand in the field of sheep, the unknown figure pointing in a different direction, invisible to me when I have the wool over my eyes. I am sure the Herald doesn’t care for a moment what I do, just that I go.
The heralded path to leadership involves being unable to articulate what one is doing, too lost to have a vision. Being wonderfully lost, genuinely bewildered, seems to me to be something that is desperately lacking these days, as the treasures we are in so much need of surely lie not in the crowded, trampled field, but inside the deep dark forest. Full of wolves – not good for sheep. Full of heralds too, I think – nature is laced with a million metaphors for how to lead a rich life full of art.
The Herder provides nothing new, just leaves me stuck in a field. The Herald talks to me about freedom and suggests I bugger off and leave him alone, and check out the forest for a while.
And with that done, can I possibly guess where the leadership I seek might emerge from..?