- 1 Horizontal Organizations
- 2 Essential to have good allies
We will talk more about Leadership during Module 5 But for now it is important to highlight a very common problem that is found in almost all groups - that are formed already or are trying to form a group. Consider the possibility that one of the things we "do upside down" is that many (who try to change society or re-design something radically) assume that we need less leaders, or even any leaders ... but that perhaps the problem is that we do not have enough leaders: people who are willing to fight and organize, to sacrifice themselves for a cause and in particular to do the most difficult thing: transcending their own being and organize, inspire, coordinate, facilitate, encourage and focalize groups of people toward a common and rational goal.
Good leaders (facilitators, organizers, focalizers ...) are basically the people who are able to focus (quite consistently) on the group as a whole, and to work for the benefit of the group, rather than focusing on their own comfort, personal needs or subjective opinions.
These days we hear a lot about “horizontal organizations” (where one would understand that “all are equal”*); this in reality only occurs in lifeless organizations.
(*It’s interesting to compare this understanding with the technical definition of “Horizontality” as in the Spanish "Horizontalidad" that was first used in Argentina in 2001)
Many of the organizations that consider themselves to have a “horizontal organization” (if they are operative and actually doing something useful), simply have many leaders, or a rotative system of leadership, various leaders or even a leader accepted by the group but not seen as a “leader” because this person is not seen as a tyrant.
Here you can read an article from the Dissent Magazine that talks about activism and horizontalism.
In reality (and the subject has been well studied), where there is any type of efficiency or good performance of groups of humans, at least up until now, it is impossible to get rid of the functionality of leadership, and this function really takes shape in as many forms as there are situations.
Good leadership is never obtained through following a recipe: it always is a (good) design and it always needs continuous re-designing. It usually means to be able to unite a group or project around and in the direction of a shared vision.
A leader is someone who takes responsibility for something to function well: the more responsibility is taken, the more skills she or he will have to develop to carry it, but any leadership is important, and necessary, if we wish to improve any situation we find ourselves in.
We need more pro-active people, who take responsibility and act in a organized and intelligent way to take on the effective re-designing of society; and maybe we need less people (well trained by the system) who only criticize, complain and dwell on the defects of the "bad leaders" we have, these people break down rather than construct.
The tragic part of the posture of attacking leaders is that it takes away any desire we would have to lead (because that is what we see happens so often to leaders). This is why we should all dare to be leaders when it is necessary - that is in any situation.
The fact that we (maybe) need many more leaders (to move the change in a decisive way) can feel pretty counter-intuitive for many people in the beginning. It is specifically difficult to consider it as a "good thing", if we primarily understand the world from the green meme perspective - where the main sympathies of many "alternative people" are found.
But with some reflection we can imagine it in a positive way, simply thinking about real examples. In which state would the planet be right now if there were many more people like Vandana Shive, Mahatma Gandhi, Wangari Maathai, Martin Luther King...?
And what are these examples essentially, if not excellent leaders?
The reactive opposition (automatic, based on emotions rather than on conscious reflection) to leadership is rather common and often will be sparked by accumulated fears, caused by our experiences with oppressive leaders in society, fears that we have not been able to let go.
In fact, very often, leadership has been used to exploit people, to rob them, to take advantage of them. We have many very good reasons to have these fears engraved in us, but however strong our "instinctive" feelings of rejections are, it is still a ascertainable fact that not all leaders are oppressive - sometimes they are liberating (like the examples to the right - and you will get to know many more), sometimes even of entire societies.
We also often confuse leadership with authority (used in a oppressive way) and some of us might have found it hard to avoid being hurt by figures of authority in our childhood (parents, teachers, etc), however loving or mature these might have been for the most part.
It is also true nonetheless that many (if not all) advances of humanity have occurred thanks to the leadership of people, visible or invisible, rarely appreciated universally (all great leaders have always had many enemies).
The result of these and other factors is that often any leader, no matter how good he or she is (in accelerating Change), will most likely face a considerable amount of suspicion and distress, sooner or later.
Attacks or apparent attacks will often arise, and these have the double negative effect of slowing down work and sometimes even de-empowering good leaders, while discouraging more people from taking these (important) roles.
And so the 'system' controls us: even if we call it that, we often forget that it really IS a system.
There are patterns that can be recognized in these attacks, and they are seen in at least four levels.
The first level is that leaders are criticized when they make a mistake.
This may seem quite legitimate because it is so common in our culture to focus on mistakes (instead on what works well) and more common even is criticizing everyone, and especially leaders. But we should first look at how many useful and good things that person has done ... and then compare to the amount of mistakes she or he has made.
If the criticism is disproportionate (not honestly valuing the positive as well as the negative), you can be almost certain it is an attack.
Criticizing anyone is rarely rational in practice - in the sense of useful.
First of all, those criticisms (when they are attacks) are rarely verbalized in front of the person who supposedly committed the mistake, but rather are outed "behind their backs". Even if they do get heard by the person who supposedly committed the mistake... to criticize anyone hardly ever makes sense (it does not usually help us to act better, it rather makes us defensive), but it makes even less sense to criticize people with a high level of self-responsibility: they normally have already realized they have made a mistake, and if they didn't, they would be happy to receive help to make things right.
Critical people however tend to not be interested in fixing problems or making things right, because the criticism they spout is based on their own emotions and personal histories. All they really want to do is criticize, in a vain attempt to try and feel better themselves.
Ironically, criticism often comes from people who feel frustrated not to be leading in their own lives (leadership is a very creative and satisfying job and it is natural for human beings to enjoy leadership) and they can even feel jealous of the leader they criticize because they feel afraid to take on the task of leadership. Then the easiest way to try and vent that tension is to criticize other leaders.
But then, criticizing, they only manage to reinforce their own great fear of leading (because, look what happens to leaders ... everyone feels it is in their right to criticize at any moment!), starting or continuing a destructive spiral.
The second level of attack on leaders is attacking and criticizing him or her to "test" if they can resist attacks from outside and continue with their program. The more one relaxes and trusts oneself whilst listening to these attacks, without getting tense or defensive, the shorter the attacks will be.
Part of this kind of attack will come from internalized oppression; for example when female leaders are "eliminated" within the same movements that fight for her liberation. In theses cases, an explanation of how oppressed internalization works will help to terminate with this type of attacks.
Attacks of the third level will come from individuals not exactly from their group, who are trapped by their fears, who look for vengeance or want to "hurt someone" for the maltreatment they received in their childhood.
These are the "troublemakers", the thrashers, the murderers, the violators. These fearful patterns can incline to attacks because they feel that who has a rational and humane program is a "timid idealist" or a "innocent goody", a "easy target".
On an organizational level, these fears search to destabilize and sometimes destroy organizations.
This is why, among other reasons, we say: should you decide to lead something - get an assistant!
Because sometimes you will simply need protection - it is better for you to not waste energy on responding to attacks (because they basically are to make you lose time and energy) and another person will be able to face this better.
This is why you have to organize protection, get rid of any fears of weakness from your side and learn self-defense. Do not think that permissive listening will reach the humanity behind those fearful patterns of the attacker.
Fourth level attacks will come from society's repressive agencies, from members of the Ku Klux Klan that occupy public positions, from the national security agencies like the FBIs, the CIAs, the secret services or from anyone that offers to serve them as an agent. These attacks are a tribute to the influence you have managed to reach.
You have to be prepared for the possibility of these attacks and notify the members of your group to counter-attack when they occur, without hesitation, united and with indignation.
It is better not to debate nor to counter the insults, until you have overcome them with a counter-attack.
The group has to agree to not discuss nor argument the accusations, only to counter-attack indignantly, until the attacks are overcome. Any error or weakness from your side, that has been used to attack you, can be discussed if it is necessary, but in private within your group, and only after the attacks have been overcome and they have stopped.
Understanding and being able to handle these difficulties is part of being a good leader, and all leaders that you form should have this skill and training. Nonetheless, once prepared, these possibilities should not worry you too much. A good job of leadership reduces the risk of these attacks happening and knowing what to do when they occur limits the time and energy necessary to overcome them.
Official transcript at http://sivers.org/ff
In this video Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith speak via webcam to Occupy Seattle on December 3rd, 2011.
The two authors discuss resistance, this culture of death, the Occupy Movement, and our collective future.
There is an interesting bit about leadership (& lack of).
Permaculture: Leadership for Sustainable Futures
His website: http://stuartbhill.com/ where you can find power-point presentations shared by him.
Octavius Catto fought for equality and is called the "Forgotten hero" of the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia.
Octavius Catto: the forgotten hero
Leadership is crucial - & always has been -
for any effective social change.
However, it is tragically misunderstood
especially by most of the reactionary 'alternatives'
of today, & this is seriously
holding us back now.
We actually need MORE leaders,
so encourage them & treat them well.
Most people who boycott good leadership
are themselves often frustrated leaders:
people who don't take on leadership
because of their own fear or misplaced ideals.
Leadership is a natural & healthy human drive.
We long to take responsibility & in fact need this
in order to really grow & learn.
Whenever we decide to take 100% responsibility
for something, we're leading.
Whether we do it well or badly
mostly depends on knowledge & experience,
like anything else.
So know this: your leadership is needed,
so if you are passionate about anything,
get right behind whoever is leading well already.
BUT if they don't exist yet, know that it's YOUR JOB:
don't wait for someone else to do what you could do
just start practicing your leadership.
Get good support & learn all you can
about what it takes to do it successfully.
Do let us know of any great leaders you know about, in this thread:
(for each of these there are thousands of equally important but unknown leaders, even invisible ones, but who share the message, the angle and the characteristics of their leadership with the people pictured below)
"Whenever we engage in consumption or production patterns which take more than we need, we are engaging in violence."
“One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in any other departments. Life is one indivisible whole."
"Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking."
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
“At first I felt sad thinking my dreams would only be fulfilled through other people. I later realized that our physical traits have nothing to do with that. Willpower and discipline in what we do. That’s what really matters”
"I learned that bravery is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over fear. The brave man is not the one who does not feel fear, but the one who conquers that fear."
"People grow through experience. If they face life with honesty and courage, that's how character develops."
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
A contemporary of Gandhi who, however, was not so easy to manage by the British, so we don't get to hear about him. But in India is as known as (and some would argue, better appreciated than) Gandhi.
"The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realize truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity - of opportunity in the social, political and individual life." — from Bhagat Singh's prison diary, p. 124