Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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To be or not to be a leader

On repeated occasions I have seen (usually USanian) organizations or individuals making recommendations like “be a leader” (cf. e.g. Alpha_Phi_Omegaw). I suspect that similar sentiments can have had an effect in creating many of the “leaders” I have observed in daily life: Someone who is not really in any way qualified to be a leader decides to follow a recommendation of this kind, and starts to model himself as a leader, see himself as leader, take his right to lead for granted, etc. Notably, previous leadership experience is one of the most important criteria used when deciding who gets more leadership responsibility, which can lead to a vicious circle of incompetents looking for leadership opportunities (even as early as in the scouts or similar organizations) being given more and more power; while competent people that are more interested in increasing their competence are increasingly passed over.

This is particularly unfortunate as these early leadership opportunities focus on the ability to handle people, make them follow, etc., which later is secondary to the much more important ability of making decisions, qualified judgments, etc. The result is that even the upper hierarchies of various organizations (including most corporations and governmental agencies) are skewed away from the the ability to make good decisions, and towards the ability to charm people.

The tragedy here is that many of these organizations likely intended a meaning of “leader” close to “role-model”, but ended up creating many of the very destructive and incompetent “leaders” that lead us astray. My recommendation: Everyone proposing “be a leader” should replace it with “be a role-model” (unless they actually, for some reason, have very different intention); everyone reading the proposition should mentally make the same adjustment.