First Reactions to the World Foresight Forum. A Note About Empowerment.

I find the idea of “inspirational leadership” vacuous. The excitement of an individual about a topic or an idea, top-down inspiration, is bullshit.

What if I told you that I don’t want someone to tell me what to do or how to think. What if I don’t want someone to precipitate that “inspired”, energized feeling in me. What if I can only feel genuine attachment to any project or idea if I myself came across that moment.

What if I want from my leader is the power to act on ideas I already possess?

Leaders up to now don’t have an incentive to empower. They inspire for a reason. They want to shape their future, their constituents’ future. They don’t often give up that ability to change it.

My peers in the Middle East are fighting and dying for that power. They are making the change they want to see in the world.

In the West, we’re still busy drinking the messianic Kool Aid. We hold out hope for a savior which will not come. It’s here already, inside us all.

I will not go to a square and throw stones. Though, I sympathize with the stone-thrower. Power is a glass house, and its inhabitants are usually naked.

Mine is a fight consisting of speaking truth to power.

There are a number of countervailing forces which hinder, trivialize, or prevent individual or collective success. We are better than that, can to better than this. I hope.

Why Inspirational Speaker-Entrepreneurs Are So Disappointing

An excerpt from my most recent Flyover Geeks post. Read the whole thing here.

What is it that makes a charismatic leader? Is it his or her message, or its delivery? Or is it something else, perhaps the inclination of the audience to believe it? In 1978, 918 people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project at the command of cult leader Jim Jones to commit “revolutionary suicide”. It was this incident that gave rise to the expression, “to drink the Kool Aid”.

What makes cult leaders so compelling is not their message per se, but the vulnerability of their audiences. Indeed, Jones’s message was not particularly, how to say it, rational. Right? Far stranger cults, like the Heaven’s Gate cult, which believed that a UFO trailed Comet Hale-Bopp and could be contacted if its members committed suicide. (Strangely, the 39 devotees were found wearing identical shirts, blue and white Nike shoes, and carried a five dollar bill and three quarters.) What’s up with that?

Might the charisma of the cult leader lend credence to his message? Sure. Could a particularly emotionally resonant if fanciful tale compel otherwise normal, if somewhat gullible people to do irrational or even monstrous things? Again yes, especially if their leader is charismatic and all the rest. But if you really want to know what makes the cult leader so convincing, what makes his/her message so wholly true in the eyes of her/his flock, it’s not the message. It’s not the leader, or charisma, or whatever.

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Read the whole thing here.

Seth Godin, Look What You’ve Done

This is an excerpt from a book review I wrote for Flyover Geeks. Read the whole thing here.

Back in 2008, when Seth Godin published his fourteenth book,Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, he was likely correct. The gist of his book, which champions a new media landscape in which change is effected not by huge corporate megaliths, or by the slow plodding progress of governments but by “tribes”. Tribes follow a leader, who articulates some idea to his/her tribe, and empowers the tribe to reify her/his ideology–act on it. Render it concrete.

I picked up Godin’s book because I’ve never read anything about leadership written for the express purpose of inspiring or instructing or empowering would-be leaders. And I realized, after about forty pages, that all of my criticism of inspirational flimflam such as this, yeah, it wasn’t baseless. Sorry, Seth.

[…] Read the whole thing here.