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:
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!