What Is Leadership?

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Nichoman's picture
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What Is Leadership?

Davos, in my view, correctly identified a key point in a recent post...

Davos wrote:

We have a leadership deficit as David Walker would say.

I agree with this comment...and add real, enduring and effective leadership is necessary to minimize impacts and consequences of the upcoming challenges ahead.

So, what do you view what leadership is, perhaps is not? 

Below...as starter...is an earlier post that broadly outlines some of my basic thoughts on leadership.


My experience in wars and natural disasters...reflects what history has consistently shown. Positive versus negative outcomes are directly a reflection of the quality in two areas.

 1.) Human Morals.

 2.) Leadership

 In trying times, the people will galvinize toward any effective leadership, the key is that person(s) having the proper character of the above. The more desperate the times are...the more the need grows for the populace...and to succumb or default to the worst if good folks aren't available. Most of the leadership we currently have are what I describe as "glitter folks" with too little substance (too much greed and self serving). The best leaders reflect and facilitate the human principles and values we admire (competence with a firm...virtuous selflessness). The fruits of any leader will be shown in the level of loyalty, trust and confidence (morale) shown.

 I've always found they best leaders never show up until its necessary, because of human values above (they just do their job...don't toot their horn). It was that way when I was flying...in combat and also in natural disasters. The people I counted on in a fix were more often then not...not those in the limelight in day to day operations.

 So...I'll offer what in over 3 decades...I define as a leader...it comes down to 3 things...

 1.) An enduring leader builds bridges versus barriors.

 2.) An enduring leader makes everyone around them better, who in turn...make the leader better in a continuous, ongoing process.

 3.) An enduring leader instills to the group the acceptance and belief we ultimately are all in a leaky boat in the middle of the ocean. We will sink or swim together, to survive, requires fostering a culture of promoting the highest standards to keep the boat afloat.

 The answer then...is in the character of key individuals in the organization and your local community. Know them and you'll know the answer to your question.

 It truly comes down to knowing human character...both yourself and assessing your local external situation. Focus on the 2 points I offer above and you can most objectively have the answer as it applies to you.

 Finally...consider reflecting on the following quote...

 A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of the Roman decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggles and failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, and consuming wars.

 –The Story of Civilization III (1944)


Sharing views could provide insight as to how well we are addressing the predicament were in...from individually to locally to nationally and internationally. 



Gungnir's picture
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Re: What Is Leadership?

I think you're over-complicating the issue. I also thought Davos was being polite in not calling them morons.

Leadership is someone doing what needs to be done, and incidentally others follow.

Most of the people I've experienced do just that, they don't ask others to follow, they don't order it, it's seemingly effortless.

Take Chris for example, he had an idea, said hey guys, I've thought of this, erm you might want to do something about it. Sometime later, here we all are discussing idea's about why this is happening, and what we can do about it., but I don't think Chris did a big media blitz, it all happened for me at least by pure accident.

So to go through your list of qualities


1.) An enduring leader builds bridges versus barriers.

Nope, he builds the appropriate thing for the appropriate reason. Others just happen to agree with it.


2.) An enduring leader makes everyone around them better, who in turn...make the leader better in a continuous, ongoing process.

Nope, the only person who can make you anything is you. You just want to improve. The same would go for the leader in your example.


3.) An enduring leader instills to the group the acceptance and belief we ultimately are all in a leaky boat in the middle of the ocean. We will sink or swim together, to survive, requires fostering a culture of promoting the highest standards to keep the boat afloat.

Nope, he just starts bailing and keeps it up until others realize they're in a leaky boat. The realization is internal, the culture (like a mould) self fosters.

To me a Leader isn't mystical at all, there's nothing special, it's just he see's the problem and tries to fix it, if others also identify with the problem, then things improve, sometimes someone will have a better idea, to use your leaky boat suggestion someone finds a pump (and knows what it is). Then the first guy bailing says, "hmm. good idea" and starts pumping.

Now to look at your example of things failing the Roman Empire, many theories as to why it fell, from von Mises economy, to mercenaries to lead poisoning. However I'm pretty sure there were strong leaders at that time (Septimius Severus immediately springs to mind), not necessarily in the places they needed to be but still strong leaders. I think the problem was that the citizenry had (similar to today) fallen into certain beliefs that they would be saved by whoever. So I'm sure that when strong leaders did do their thing, none of the people watching or listening could figure out why they were doing what they were.

I think from a sociological perspective this isn't unreasonable, frequently the phrase "In the world of the blind, the one eyed man is king" is in reality, "In the world of the blind, the one eyed man is insane". So I believe that the failure wasn't that there was no strong leadership, just that no-one recognized the need to do anything different.


SagerXX's picture
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Posts: 2252
Re: What Is Leadership?

I think both Nicho and Gungnir's comments have a lot of value.  I'm still learning what leadership is/can be, as part of my process of making change in the lives of my wife & myself.  For the most part, I'm just doing what needs doing, and I'm starting to get the first tickles of response/interest from the people in our community.  

Some folks want to jump in with both feet on all the stuff I'm doing.  Some want to pick'n'choose from the list of preparations.  Some voice interest but are too intimidated or afraid to do anything (or they are still heavily in the Denial phase).  I'm content to have folks do what seems appropriate to them (and I have no authority to force them to do anything and I've learned from experience that coercion can work short term but is generally a losing strategy, or impossible to keep up over the long term).  I'm trusting that since they're intelligent they will at some point have their "Come to Jesus" moment (so to speak) and they will feel a sense of urgency.  But to the extent they wouldn't be doing anything (or thinking about it in lucid fashion) if I wasn't doing what I'm doing right under their noses, I'm providing leadership through action.

There will, however, come a time at which my wife & I will be making concrete moves that will determine the parameters by which others will or will not be able to directly cooperate with our efforts (most notably, when we set up a community with the intent of weathering the coming changes [see NB below]).  If they're "In" at that point, well and good.  But if they miss that gate, we may or may not be able to include them in what we're doing.  Seems to me that prior to that point, a good leader would be letting folks know there's a timeline for their participation so that they have at least some opportunity to think it through before they have to make the yes/no decision.

As always, opinions will differ and YMMV.  Good thread.  Thanks Nicho!

Viva -- Sager

NB:  If, as I surmise, the Community we get around to forming owns land in common (or if we go a more ersatz route such as simply buying up a number of 'normal' houses within reasonably close proximity [say, a mile of each other]), the simple fact that a given parcel can only house/feed/etc. so many people will limit future additions.  (Or, in the "let's all buy houses in the same neighborhood" option, there will only be so many available properties.)  IMO that moment will be the real test (a) of people's commitment and (b) my vision.  It's gonna be interesting to see how it turns out.  (Right now we have 4 other couples actively talking about such plans...and probably another 1-4 individuals that would seriously consider the idea.  Of course, everyone has ideas that vary at least a bit -- and sometimes quite a bit -- whether we're talking what folks think are going to happen, or how to respond...)

Davos's picture
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Re: What Is Leadership?
Gungnir wrote:

I also thought Davos was being polite in not calling them morons.

That got a good laugh. 

In all honesty I think a good leader is comprised of 4 things:

  1. The ability to quickly identify and annunciate any and all major threats. In this case it would be the 3 E's.
  2. The ability to bring together the best (not the worst) bright people to solve those problems.
  3. The ability to lay out and adhere to guiding principles needed to achieve the corrective goal.
  4. Vision.
pinecarr's picture
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Re: What Is Leadership?

Well said, Davos! 

Speaking of Chris :), he hasn't been blogging much about the Rennaissance Weekend.  I'm thinking that's probably a good sign, that they are probably deeply involved in the issues and discussions. And I hope some R&R in the sun and warmth after all the snow in the northeast!

xraymike79's picture
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Posts: 2040
Re: What Is Leadership?

Nice to know that we can all more or less define what good leadership is. Does it matter? No.

"Good Leadership" today is defined as those who can best manipulate the population as a whole for the sole benefit of their financial supporters (i.e. special interests/corporate overseers). We are but a mere number, a blip on a screen, a consumption repository from which corporate profit can be extracted and then culled when our usefulness is depleted. It's a system that will be propped up at all costs until it gasps its last dying breath.

So its no use pontificating and rehashing....just accept the inflexible system as it is. The body politic is too dumbed down to care or understand, and the "sock puppet" politicians are too corrupt and oblivious to steer our collosal war ship off its present course. Working within this sort of rigid framework is difficult, and most cannot break free of it. I'm sorry to say, but most of the passengers are locked in their cabins fast asleep.

If you are one of the lucky ones who can outmaneuver this blinded system, then God bless you. The rest of us will manage the best we can because there simply aren't enough lifeboats for most of us.

mobius's picture
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Joined: May 18 2009
Posts: 160
Re: What Is Leadership?

My two cents here....I believe that true "middle management" leadership is lost.  Yes, we need people to have the vision, but we (in the general societal sense of the word) do not adequately reward the middle line; those who turn the vision into a viable action plan.  But that would mean sharing the profits.


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