Farmers, Zoologists, Shoemakers, and Poets

Paul Hawken, in his book, Blessed Unrest, writes, “an older quiescent history is reemerging, what poet Gary Snyder calls the great underground, a current of humanity that dates back to the Paleolithic. Its lineage can be traced back to healers, priestesses, philosophers, monks, rabbis, poets, and artists ‘who speak for the planet, for other species, for interdependence, a life that courses under and through and around empires.’” What stands out for me among this reemerging history is the quiet nature of her leaders.

Have you ever wondered why we insist on thinking power, position, and privilege equate to leadership? Or thinking the owner, the boss, the CEO, the President, the Pope, the senior pastor, the chairman of the board, or the Secretary General is THE leader? Is it because a quiet grace struggles to coexist?

We want strength in our leaders, failing, of course, to recognize meekness and gentleness—the essence of a quiet grace—are among the most reliable indicators of strength.

It’s generally pretty easy to see what happens when leadership rests upon power, position, or privilege. There is much history can tell us. But what, exactly, doesn’t happen? After all, it’s usually the leader’s vision we are asked to adopt. In so many ways, it’s also THEIR, game, THEIR toys, and probably THEIR rules too. About the only thing left to captivate, inspire, motivate, and encourage us is THEIR personality. As such, a great many of us — some enthusiastically, others reluctantly — merely saddle up for the ride, hoping against hope the scenery has something of interest to offer along the way.

Now let us compare THEIR reality with the hope of the unseen. You know the crowd. Or, do you? Hawken’s helps us out here with shout outs to “a coalescence comprising hundreds of thousands of organizations” giving “support and meaning” to billions of people, largely unnoticed, around the globe: “families in India, students in Australia, farmers in France, the landless in Brazil, the Bananeras of Honduras, the ‘poors’ of Durban, villagers in Irian Jaya, indigenous tribes of Bolivia, and housewives in Japan.” Ever wonder who is leading THEM? Great question, isn’t it? Hawkens knows. Their leaders, he tells us, “are farmers, zoologists, shoemakers, and poets.”

Farmers, zoologists, shoemakers, and poets? Are you kidding? What, no CEOs? Are you certain? No President or Chairman of the Board? Surely there must be some mistake. No members of Parliament either? What about the Congress? Or, maybe the Senate? Nope. Ever wondered why self-proclaimed leaders might relinquish control of this vast underground? It’s quite simple to explain really. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, a 20th century philosopher, thinker, anthropologist, historian, crusader for social justice, champion of human rights, and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, tells us why:

A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society.”

Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Do you know leaders like the great man Ambedkar describes, leaders who consistently — indeed, relentlessly — place others before self? Leaders who possess a servant’s heart? Leaders who perfectly understand the vision was never theirs to give; instead, it always belongs to the people, it always represents our common bond?

Thomas Carlyle argued “the history of the world is but a biography of great men.” But it seems to me his focus on the leader may have failed to consider ‘greatness’ originates in the hearts of those who choose to follow. Martin Luther King, Jr, helps us come to terms with greatness: “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.”



Seems to me we could use a few million more ‘great’ leaders! Indeed, a new GENERATION of leaders stepping out to transmogrify OUR collective vision, taking it from a distant dream to create the present reality, a reality founded on love. In the end, love is what we need. Leadership—true leadership—IS love.

In closing, my wonderful friend, Letty, says it this way: Only those who have the power to reach the hearts of others are great leaders. Isn’t that beautiful? Such is the leader I long to follow, an other-centered leader who demonstrates time and time again leadership is not positional; it’s relative. It’s also relevant, and it’s real. Such is the leader who turns Western society’s autocratic, hierarchical command and control on its head, recognizing power, position, and privilege never were important; PEOPLE are!

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15 Responses to Farmers, Zoologists, Shoemakers, and Poets

  1. James Strock says:

    Terrific post from Dr. Jack King! Building off M.L. King’s vision, in today’s wired world we can add that “Everyone can lead, because everyone can serve.”

  2. Beautiful and it just might heal the world – especially the shoemaker. Couldn’t help myself on that one Dr. Jack.

    Thank you for this simply elegant post. I vote for redefining power in relational terms and love your statement “leadership is not positional; it is relative.” I sent it to the twitterverse & hope to see it fly.

    Warmest sentiments – Anne aka @bizshrink

  3. Wonderful Jack! And this says it all… “In the end, love is what we need. Leadership—true leadership—IS love.” Thank *you*!

  4. Harry Tucker says:

    This is an INCREDIBLE post, Jack. The world is moving in this direction, despite the kicking and screaming of the “other side” that insists on holding onto power for its own purposes.

    We are on the cusp of an incredible transformation in the world. Some of it will be incredible … some of it will be very painful.

    But I look forward to what comes after the transformation. I think at the point that we will FINALLY hit our point of catching up to our incredible potential …. finally.

  5. Edie Galley says:

    When I read your post today it reminds me of the passages in John when Jesus washes the servants feet.

    It makes it easier to understand that it is possible to be a leader and a servant.

    Thank you for continuing to serve, lead and teach us Jack. It is greatly appreciated.

  6. Teresa Brax says:

    A wonderful article based on a great truth: Serving is loving . Only noble and great souls can serve without any personal interest.

    Dear Jack, i appreciate and admire your work! Keep leading and showing us how to be a great leader by example.

    Thank YOU !

  7. This post captures the essence of the kind of leader that is needed in our world. Not the one who leads by position or power, we have plenty of those. But the leader who leads by serving, by being in relationship, through the power of love. Thank you Jack for being the light in the darkness and reminding us of the kind of leader we truly need.

  8. TheStyleGent says:

    Thank you for your constant focus on Generosity & Humility. A true gentleman at heart

  9. Right on Dr Jack right on! I have just finished reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and much of what you say here can be seen it what he calls Level 5 leadership, that day to day service to a community, “the right people on the bus” who have crafted their one great idea towards which they all work consistently and dilligently. They don’t need a leader because they all come joyfully, enthusiastically to contribute their unique gift towards the goal. In that society all are leaders as they all come to serve. Right on Dr Jack, right on!

  10. Jack King says:

    Jim ~ I could not agree more. ANYONE can lead, and so many do (despite the constraints so-called ‘leaders’ put upon them). They lead because they put others first. They lead because they love.

    Anne ~ The shoemaker, along with the potter, the janitor, and the secretary, and so many others, do much to heal the world. For me, the point is this: they do something. They go green, they protest war, they feed a hungry child, or they hold a friend’s hand in time of need. Their efforts never go unnoticed by those they touch … somewhere, everyday. Their leadership is relative, relevant, and real.

    Thomas ~ It seems to me many of us have become accustomed to a kind of disposable leadership, something we take out of a box, deplete, and throw away. For me, leadership is a sacred act. As is love. Leadership and love are invariably one and the same, deeply enjoined to the cycle of heaven and life.

    Harry ~ We are, indeed, on the cusp of incredible transformation. A great underground current is busy at work to bring in a new era. Constructive changes in human life are brought about through the power of humble acts. We see them all the time. We also see that fear and intimidation fail to recognize the importance of connection. On the same note, we find that force refuses to understand power rests not in the front office, but in the hands and hearts of the people where ideas and intention take us forward, gracefully aligning us with the spirit of the world and of life.

    Edie ~ Jesus’ example, though not the first, stands out for so many servant hearts. Some 2,000 years ago, he urges his followers to be servants first: “You know that the rulers … lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave …” The serving nature of leadership derives its power from the people, and its traditions hail from the Middle East and the ancient Orient. We can look to Solomon and Rehoboam (about 900BC), Lao-Tzu (6th century BC), and India’s Chanakya, writing in the Arthaśhāstra (about 400BC), among others, before Jesus washes the feet of those who follow him. We can also find servant hearts in our midst, if we but look for them. They are not hard to find as they stand behind and below those they serve, always lifting others within reach of dreams of their own. We have so very much to learn from the love of others.

    Teresa ~ So many times, it seems ‘leaders’ prey on people’s naivety, fear, and susceptibility, doing what they can to suppress critical thinking, suspend healthy judgment, and induce a perverted blind loyalty. In so doing, the inherent strength at the heart of diversity is deeply diminished and, consequently, innovation and ideas falter. Community risks disintegration as conformity confines us, in large part because ‘leaders’ often can be self-serving. Our response is to rebuild community, strengthen it through love.

    Randall ~ Leadership is, indeed, love and it culminates in serving others. For me, it finds its essence in the peacefulness—the stillness—of one’s heart. It is meek and gentle. And it is very strong.

    William ~ St Augustine said, “The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient.” Some years later, we learn from James Barrie, “Life is a long lesson in humility.” If I can lift another up, my life has been worth living.

    Kriss ~ I found Jim Collins’ book spot on! I am particularly intrigued by the unassuming nature of ‘good-to-great leaders,’ those who graciously, and willingly, step into the background as they endeavor to turn their companies over to the people, and to the next generation of leaders. The lesson for all of us is to find meaning in life by getting involved, by giving, and by serving another.

    I so appreciate each of you and your warm responses to Farmers, Zoologists, Shoemakers, & Poets ~ thank you, dear friends! Love to each of you. Hugs, too!

  11. LettyMor says:

    Dr. Jack, Sin duda alguna un gran artículo, que nos describe un liderazgo de exelencia, pues no basta con el servicio, va más alla, es la entrega desinteresada de amor, que no obedece a horarios, que no tiene fronteras, que respeta credos, que hermana a todos en un solo sentimiento, que ve la necesidad de otros como la propia, y esto solamente es posible con un corazón lleno de amor, con humildad y la sencillez que lo caracteriza, por todo esto Dr. Jack, Usted es el ejemplo mismo de un Gran Lider con el poder del Amor que se necesita para llegar a muchos corazones. Felicidades………

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