6/18 Flashback: Take me to your

6/18 Flashback: Take me to your June 18, 2022

From June 18, 2014, “Avoid any book with ‘leadership’ in the title“:

I don’t trust books about “leadership.” Such books invariably include lots of anecdotes about great leaders and the things that inspired them to become great leaders, yet none of those anecdotes ever seems to recount any of them having read a book about leadership. And that ought to tell us all we need to know about such books.

But more than that, I don’t trust such books (or magazines) because I think the main function of this sub-genre of self-help literature is dubious and kind of evil. Books on leadership are written for and read by people in positions of “leadership,” which is to say by people with fancy titles, offices and salaries. Which is to say, they are written for and read by people haunted by the crippling fear of impostor syndrome.

That’s not quite it, though. Impostor syndrome is a neurosis based on irrational fear and the inability to accept that one has legitimately earned and achieved one’s successes. But the target audience for “leadership” books and magazines isn’t dealing with a neurosis. Their fears are legitimate. They know their privilege truly is unearned and unmerited. They know they actually are impostors.

That’s why they’re so desperate to gobble up books about “leadership,” hoping to learn the Six Secrets or the Seven Habits that might provide some defense when that inevitable knock at the door finally comes. They’re hoping to legitimize their position as “leaders” after the fact, and to do so they’re willing to read anything, subscribe to any journal, attend any seminar, follow any guru — do almost anything short of, you know, actually leading. …

One more example.

Sunday, March 7,1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Photo by Spider Martin.

The man at the front of that phalanx of Alabama state troopers on the left is a “leader.” He had the title, the office, the uniform and the salary to prove it. He was a man who gave orders. And that’s what you can see him doing here — giving orders instead of leading, and refusing to listen to the uppity students who dared to challenge his authority.

That’s John Lewis and Hosea Williams at the head of the line of students on the right, showing us what actually leading actually looks like.

John Lewis could probably make a tidy sum by writing a self-help book for self-described “leaders.” But Lewis hasn’t done that. Instead of writing books about “leadership,” he’s written books about walking. Those books are well worth your time. The man knows how to walk.

Read the whole post here.

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