Leadership

What if we re-examined “leadership”?  More importantly, the way it gets taught and treated.

The various “leadership” courses I have been in have always pushed and been framed with the idea of “everyone can be a leader”! Which is not inherently wrong, but, maybe that has become too literal.  The general framework, as I have perceived it, has been that every single individual can be a leader at the same time and it is based on making sure everyone has a chance to participate and talk in some sort of a group task/discussion.

This idea of everyone being a leader training waters down true leadership (much like the use of the word “hero” has watered down what a hero actually is) and has led to people feeling less empowered to actually lead.  This is because leadership training focuses on “management” instead of actual leadership and focuses too much on teams and making sure everyone feels involved.  Those too things are reasonably important skills yes, but they are not leadership and do not teach individuals how to be a leader, it teaches them how to play office politics.

So, obviously, my definition of a leader is different than that which the training is teaching towards.  My idea of a leader is someone who has a specific goal and can take steps to accomplish that goal.  The better the leader, the bigger the goal and better able to plan and implement the steps to that goal.  But wait, that is just what a manager does, split a goal into tasks and get people to accomplish those tasks to achieve said end-goal.  No.

A manager receives an end goal from some other entity along with some of the general tasks that have to be done to achieve those goals and then reports on progress.  A manager, at any level, is simply the reporting arm of an entity between the on-the-ground work and higher levels.  That does not inherently mean that CEO’s are leaders though either, they are just among the highest level managers.  Sometimes there are leaders among all of these levels, including the on-the-ground people but often enough, they are managers and nothing more and simply get trained in how to manage other groups somewhat more effectively.  Managers help hold team together, leaders attract teams of people.  I think that is one of the fundamental differences.  Leaders are those much more charismatic people who have end goals that they are working towards an then end up with teams of people all helping achieve the same end goals.

The problem with this idea though is, you cannot then “teach” leadership.  There is no such thing as “leadership” skills. It also means that not everyone can be a leader (at the exact same time), hierarchy is essentially required for this type of leadership, not exactly a palatable idea to our current society because it is much easier to say that everyone can be a leader and leave it at that than actually deal with leadership and roles.  But, that is because of big assumptions made.

“Everyone cannot be a leader,” does not inherently mean there is a gender, racial, class, education, whatever bias.  It is simply a statement that not every single individual can possibly be “the leader” at all times, the buck has to stop somewhere and that would be the actual leader (who, probably, is the original initiator of the project).  There can be a group of leaders working towards a similar or even same goal but, someone had to bring them together and truly focus them, that person is the leader of the other leaders.

That shows the sort of skills that leaders actually need: how to find people and how to START something. Leadership training focuses on “problem-solving,” “synergy,” “discussion,” “empowerment” etc.  (at least the training’s I’ve been in).  Actual leadership is someone who has a goal and actually knows how to winnow through individuals to talk to the people in the correct mind-set and context(s) to implement parts of the goal or see the value in said goal and will line up with the initiator (leader).

Then, and I think this is the biggest difference between actual leaders and others, the leader starts towards their goal. That starting, the initiation, is also one of the least “taught” aspects of leadership it seems.  This can be seen in how goals are dealt with.

Nearly everyone has probably heard about S.M.A.R.T. goals.  You know, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant/realistic, timely or your favorite incarnation.  Notice one thing about that list?  You never start anything!  I have had plenty of goals and ideas for goals that could fall into this type of goal but, I never start towards said goal(s), perhaps some of my S.M.A.R.T.est goals have never come to fruition because I did not initiate, I did not take the steps to START towards them.  I think that leadership training has to turn towards that, teaching (somehow) how to initiate something, how to take that first step.  Then we will actually be educating and empowering people to be leaders.  Until that point, we will simply be teaching managers to keep the world spinning as it is.

What do you think?  Is what I am saying even making sense?

 

Short Theory of History

I was thinking about dignity and honor and pride one day and started considering history and the creation of the world we live in today.  I was also thinking about aristocrats and how they are considered as having honor and pride.  Taking aristocracy to be “rule of the best qualified” and considering best qualified to be people who are the ideal type of Greek virtuous person, or something along those lines, I began to wonder if our current world was not created by merchants who wanted to have more pride in themselves but do not understand what they are actually looking for and thought that honor came from the status, not the person.

Yes, I know not all European aristocrats were particularly good people, I am not disregarding the actual history, it is a general theory, one I think worth considering and at least somewhat interesting.  It also provides another critique of materialism and our modern world, which is one of my favorite dead horses to beat.

So, below is the thought process of this theory of history and the economy.

Merchants are considered higher because they bought royal, or aristocratic, status from the aristocracy who found selling and working below their dignity.  As such, they did not focus on making money allowing the merchants, who did not mind working, to be able to buy the aristocrats out.  The merchants though, bought the aristocratic status for various reasons, one of which was to gain dignity, honor or a different sense of pride.

It is impossible to buy what these merchants were looking for though and some of the true aristocrats understood this while the merchant class did not.  So, as the aristocrats faded away or lost their status to money the merchants came to power.  These merchants though simply cannot understand how to get the dignity that they want, they do not understand what it means to actually be an aristocrat.  They always hope that it is the next paycheck or thing or status symbol that will turn the merchants into a proper aristocrat.

This leads to the development of an economic system that needs constant growth and wealth (how else to buy those status symbols to become an aristocrat?).  The constant growth does work for some, insofar as they have more money and can buy more things and raise their status, but money cannot turn an individual into an actual aristocrat.

The Difference Between the Internet and a Walk

Earlier this week I brought up that apps are not necessarily the solution to every problem in our society.  I then went ahead and gave a description of two general types of society and which one apps and internet things are a part of, but I failed to go into a better explanation of why, so here is the beginning of that:

Let us look back at the idea of a vertical society, part of a vertical society is limiting the journey from point A to point B.  Cars, metro and if it was ever physically possible I guarantee it would be taken up–teleportation.  All of these things make it so that a person can go from one place (their home) to another place (their workplace on usual work days) with minimal time, effort and dealing with others.  Yes, one has to interact with others while driving or elbowing your way into the bus in the morning, but it is not the same as walking through a marketplace or walking through a park.  How often do you stop and enjoy the moment in any of these forms of transportation?  You listen to music or read a book probably on the bus, while driving you listen to the radio or focus on just not getting into a wreck, plus, mostly, you have a specific goal in mind and attempt to get to that goal in the shortest way possible.  The internet is just like this, only, you actually can teleport!

Think about it, one cannot go for a walk through the internet, there is no “public” space which one can explore and see what there is to see, you have to either be looking for something or know the actual end goal that you have.  You can end up in random places through say stumbleupon or something like that, but that is not randomly “strolling” through the internet.  That is a violent jumping all over to specific places, akin to being able to go from your room to the art museum, to the library, to the grocery store, to the police station and on and on without having to actually take a step.  This is how the internet and how I think computers work in general.

Computers are like this in a more complicated way and it becomes easier to approach computers through a different image, that of a conversation.  When you are having a great conversation with a friend of yours, stories are told, facts are shared among who knows what and you and your interlocutor randomly talk, no specific goal, just talk about whatever comes to mind and where ever you end up.  Computers, how I understand them, cannot handle this though, they cannot just go anywhere for no reason, there has to be a specific goal.  Solve this mathematical problem, execute this command, share this data and so on, a conversation between computers would be amazingly boring.  I imagine it would be like two people just sharing their current health status without anything else:

“I have a heart-rate currently of 60 beats per minute, my blood pressure is 120/80, current body temperature is 98.6 degrees Farenheit….” and the other responds with their information and then walk away and continue onto something else, preferably whatever their original end goal was.

Anyway, it appears that apps and computers and the internet is limited by this, the thing that I think we can begin to point at and say “this is part of being a human.”  It is as simple as taking a walk.  I use this in comparison to the teleportation through a city.  In going for a walk, you, as an individual have infinite possibilities every single moment on that walk.  You can continue to walk forward, you can turn left, right, make a 180 degree turn, a 90 degree turn, a 78.675 degree turn, you could literally stop and sit down, you can stop the enjoy the sun on your skin.  Transportation in a vertical society attempts to avoid this, there is no end goal in any of these things, they are simply being present in the moment (to use meditation language).  While going for a random walk through your neighborhood you have all of these options and more, you can also randomly see a friend of yours, a neighbor, an enemy, a person you’ve never seen before but decide at that moment you want to get to know better, you could see someone in need of help and give them that help, or not.  On this walk you also have the option of deciding you have somewhere to go, to a friend’s house, to the park, to get some groceries and you can immediately act upon that decision.  None of this is possible on computers or the internet.  Yes, you can change your mind but outside of canceling, you can only make the change after you have hit the end goal that you started off with.  It would be like if you decided to go to the library but half way there decided to stop at a cafe but you physically could get to that cafe until you have been to the library, or reset back at your starting point.  This is essentially what has to happen in apps and computers.  This is also the essential limitation of apps and computers and why they cannot be considered the best solution to every problem.

Hopefully this helps make something a little bit clearer.  If not, I hope it makes something more confusing and makes you stop and think some more.

Why I am Embarrassed to be in University

I often find myself embarrassed to still be in school, even if it is university and so many people consider it a great thing that I am in it and “getting ahead” or whatever the new phrase is.

This is because in school I can still avoid responsibility.  This is weird to be saying because in a way I am doing the very thing I am embarrassed by but still.  School teaches me and gives me the opportunities to avoid actually taking responsibility of my own life and my own education.  I can always say I am tired or that I have a lot of work to do in school when I don’t really have that much.  I can always avoid taking responsibility for this stupidly expensive education, yet I don’t and as students, we generally don’t.  There is a certain maturity that has to be met in order to take that sort of responsibility and by going straight into university after high school, like I have done, you never gain that maturity, you just keep pushing your responsibility off for another four years.

I spend my days in classes thinking about other things, for example, this blog.  Instead of focusing on classes I’m off daydreaming about what I am going to write for a blog post, or what I want to do research on but then never do it because I am “too busy” either procrastinating/stalling on doing homework I actually have to do.  At the same time though, I am genuinely not interested in my classes, I am not necessarily choosing them because I have an interest in them, but because I have to in order to get a degree.  This is where I end up my own bind.

I am saying I am embarrassed to be in school because it allows me to avoid responsibility in classes in a way and then I say I am not taking responsibility because the classes do not fully interest me.  I am not even sure what adjective describes this situation, but it certainly is not coherent in my understanding and it does feel like I am still attempting to take a sort of back-door out of responsibility for my own actions by saying this.  But at the same time, if I was genuinely interested or allowed to do the things I want to take responsibility for i.e. do my own research and writing, wouldn’t I do a better job and be a better student?  Wouldn’t this hold true for every student who actually cared for their education?  Could there be a solution to student disfavor (? I am not sure of the right adjective to use) of classes in the solution to this question?

If instead of education being an assumed thing and top-down in what has to be learned, wouldn’t people be better students if they had to go out and get it themselves, do their own research and get interested in their own projects?  I understand there is a basic level of information that countries feel a child should know at some point, but after that certain level of basic knowledge, it seems to me that any other “general education” becomes entirely useless because the students would not be interested in it at all.

One might reply, but this can lead to too much specialization and not coming up against people with differing opinions, be it in classes or in texts.  My response has three parts: yes, no and so what? Yes: definitely, I would only start reading the bits and pieces of information I find interesting and useful to my own set of knowledge (I do this anyway…..).  Yet, this will make me learn a lot more in a way.  For example: an individual continues to research their little section of knowledge (I cannot come up with a single subject that is highly removed from other topics except for pure mathematics), by nature of being part of the earth they are probably going to end up having to spread out into other areas in order to better grasp the concepts that they are more focused on, therefore they will spread out in their specialization, even in pure mathematics I am sure that one will have to reach outside of their own little set of ideas for something. If someone is doing or learning about a topic they are bound to get conflicting reports of some sort or in some way, (i.e. scholarly journals, magazines, communication).  No matter how hard one tries to hermetically seal themselves into a certain group I am sure that once they step out into the real world they will run into competing opinions only relatively recently has technology gotten to such a level as to be able to completely encase oneself in a certain viewpoint without ever hearing opposition.  At the absolute least, there are going to be groups of people interested in the same type of things and they will disagree I am sure. So maybe one’s own curiosity is the only way to actually get a good education after a certain level and universities are not the places that promote that.

I am still embarrassed to be in school, and even more so now in a way because I recognize that I want to take responsibility for my education, but I do not know how while I am in school besides educating myself outside of school.  Yet I do have work I have to accomplish while in school (not saying I am “too busy” but homework does exist no matter what, taking time away from my own studying), since it is so expensive I really do not want to do too terribly and I certainly don’t want to come out with all of this debt and no credit for this time I have spent in university since it is apparently the only way to get a job (maybe) after I graduate currently.

This embarrassment may not apply to all other university students but it does to me and I certainly hope I am not alone in this respect, this is embarrassing enough and heavy enough of a burden with hopes that someone else understands it, let-alone if I found out I was the only one.

Well, that ended on a sad note.  Off to continue in the loop though of not taking responsibility by doing other work in a way….This entire thought is also strange too in seeing it from outside like this….

Fear of Death

Recently in a class the topic of prisons came up and how prisons are the place that society tends to send mental health patients and anyone who doesn’t either look or act like the norms set. That prompted this little piece:

Fear of death causes the fear of having to deal with anything reminding us of life, the frailty of it and parts of it that aren’t pleasant. Only by accepting and living with death can life be appreciated, thus making prison populations smaller and weakening the prison system. Until then prisons are going to be the model of life for everyone.

Fear of death and therefore fear of life, makes society split everything up into little pieces. This fear causes everything to be compartmentalized into smaller and smaller little separate pieces for us to deal with and never actually get a look at the larger picture. We have our private/semi-private space, we have a certain time to go outside, certain times to eat, no one sees when we die, as few people as possible see us when born. We then create a section of the world that is only for “us” or whatever your group is and exclude and include others according to your whims.

Cells, time to walk around outside, times to eat, times to sleep, fences all around. Apartments, “free time,” lunch break, curfew, borders. Which one is more free? Arguably the second, I cannot fully disagree with this, but I can point out the trajectory this second lifestyle seems to be taking and it ends up quite similar to the first one, only with a bit less gray.

Everything becomes a little tiny piece of life but is never put into the full context of a life, all because of a fear of death and life. So it is easier for society to put everything that doesn’t fit with the norm into a confined area that we do not ever have to deal with: hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, schools even. If the individual doesn’t fit the norm, put them into some space to either make/train them to fit the norm or just keep them out of the way until later on. Prisons will expand unless we begin to think differently.

21st Century Religion

This is a paper that I wrote, sadly I had to trash it because it was way too long, but I am quite proud of it and I feel like sharing the entirety of it because it makes an interesting statement to me.  I also, do not think it is plagiarism since the citations also come attached to this and it is my own original work…

This was originally supposed to be a post on a discussion board, so that is why the reference to other discussion posts.

All of the students who have posted seem to have hit upon important points of discussion and explanations of why people kill in the name of religion.  I feel that they have missed some points though and will attempt to expand this discussion a bit further than has heretofore gone.  I am going to do this through arguing that religion creates a sense of community and identity which can then be infringed upon or dishonored helping to cause a justification for killing.  Afterwards I will try to briefly argue that religions attempt to go to war with each other to prove which tribe and religion is more powerful (sort of a Hobbesian sense of state of nature).  Finally, in an interesting thought experiment, I will attempt to argue that our society is intensely religious with what I will call a cult of rationality and that this religion has been in one of the most large-scale wars for domination over other religions.

In the slides online and in the book the idea of communitas from Victor Turner is mentioned (Jourdan 2014, Slide 11 and Miller 2010, 335).  This communitas, according to Turner, is a sense unity with a group of people (Miller 2010, 335).  Religions are one place where this sense of unity can be created through all of the different rituals and having similar beliefs.  I think that this is an important factor in religions which can help to cause a justification for killing.  If one feels like they are part of a tight-knit community one that is so closely tied that the phrase “if you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us” stands and then one of their own people is hurt the others will feel justified in getting revenge.  Take this into religions where there is also the idea of spirits, Gods, gods and other divine or supernatural powers which can also be offended.  Now there is a group of people who have a group of individuals and a belief system to protect from outrages and that can lead to very easy justification for fighting and killing.

Take the story of the Trojan War as a more secular example.  A Greek King’s wife was taken by a Trojan Prince.  The Greek Kings, all being part of a loose identity of “Greek” went to war with the other Greek Kings to get this wife back.  The Greeks have a sense of community with each other and one member had been offended so they went to war to fix the offense.  Even if the story is mythological the basic idea still holds I think.  A more religious example can be seen in the 30 year’s war which had a lot to do with the reformation (Morrison, 6).  The entirety of Catholic Christianity had to deal with this new sect of Protestants within itself and multiple tactics were used on either side.

Another aspect of this killing is to show which religion is more powerful.  The myth of emperor Constantine receiving a sign that he should have his soldiers put the Christian Cross on their shields to win a battle I think is an example of this.  By winning a huge battle under the name of one religion it is a sort of symbol of the ability of that religion’s God(s) to protect its believers, thus showing it is more powerful and more right or true.  This certainly makes the crusades a bit awkward for Catholic Europe at the time since they ended up losing.  So religious communities are groups of people who are closely knit, can be offended and want to establish themselves as the most powerful and most truthful group in religious conflicts.  I am not attempting to say that this is the only justification for religious killing but it certainly seems like this could be an important aspect.  Now this last justification for killing is the one that the cult of rationality has used for the most part.

The first thing I have to do is define this cult of rationality.  This cult believes in the absolute power of reason/logic.  A definition of religion we are given in the slides is:

A religion is 1) a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by 2) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and 3) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that 4) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic (Jourdan 2014, slide 2).

The system of symbols that this cult uses seems to stem from geometry and math in general.  Statistics being one of the main sources of these symbols, this system of symbols is used in scientific journal articles to prove certain things such as whether or not a medicine works.  Or calculus, another system of these symbols is used to argue for gravity and these things establish the motivations of whether or not to take a medicine for a cure or how to explain the world and why things fall as they do.  Gravity then also does step two, by helping along with the rest of physics, to explain how the universe works.  The aura of factuality can be seen by the fact that we call these facts and these explanations and motivations for things are assumed to be real.  I also think one can argue that this cult of rationality is a religion from another list we are given in the slides.

This second list is the four reasons why people would need and have religions.  They are (1) an explanation (2) validation (3) security and (4) defining the world (Jourdan 2014, Slide 2).  This cult of rationality explains how the world came to be (the big bang theory), validates and comforts by arguing that the apparent chaos in the world is controlled by rationality and logically explainable ideas and an idea of gravity certainly validates that we see things fall.  Finally these logical rules also explain the world as it really is.  Now to explain how this religion has been at war with others.

I think this war with other religions can be seen in European ethnocentrism also.  First Nations people in North America being forced off of their own lands, enslaved, destroyed and forced to change their habits and beliefs to fit into the world system of a combination of Christianity and rationality.  Colonialism is another historical example of this war, Europeans thought that they had the better religion rationality and Christianity and went exploring, to get trade yes, but also they went proselytizing and enslaving.  The cult of rationality in having these mathematical symbols for an economy led the way to expansion and then used these symbols to improve weaponry and navigation so that the colonializing rationalists could attack with fancier and more damaging weapons (gun powder instead of bows), move more people and goods around with navigation and higher quality ships among other technological advances that rationality made.  In due time, this cult of rationality has managed to spread across the globe so that the entire world is part of the economy, statistics of the world are taken and everything is put to the rationalist explanations and tests.

This is a somewhat crazy interpretation of the modern world and I am not saying that this is the right way to interpret the world.  I do think that it is important to be aware of how religions can be viewed, interpreted, understood and explained though and performing a thought experiment such as this can show that and help to prevent the ethnocentrism that asilvestri mentioned in an earlier post.  It can also help to show how there can be multiple reasons for religious killing.

Works Cited:

Jourdan, Christine. 2014. “Introduction to Culture (ANTH 202).” eConcordia. http://www.econcordia.com/courses/introduction_culture/lesson5/

Miller, Barbara, Penny Van Esterik and John Van Esterik. Cultural Anthropology. 4th ed. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2010.

Schiller, Friedrich. The History of the Thirty Year’s War. Translated by Rev. A. J. Morrison, M.A. University of Pennsylvania. http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/schiller/30yrswar.pdf

Another Life Metaphor

Life is a constant war and one must live like a soldier.  Your armor is your character and yourself. Every morning you have to wake up and carry this armor with you.  Every action you take has to be defining and defending yourself.  Every action sharpens your blade, strengthens your shield and hardens your armor.  The world we live in is always trying to crush you, make you a tool, to make life secure. Security requires the disarming of yourself and letting your armor go.  A secure life is the undefined life. The defined life is a constant struggle, always a chaos that you create and control.  The life of definition is hard, dirty, and uncomfortable.  The life of definition is always on the very edge of living and sanity.  The defined life is lonely because you are yourself, but the best of companions can be found there.  When two stand on their own they can truly respect each other.