The Existential Laws of Leadership

The Existential Laws of Leadership image leadership ballSoren Kierkegaard’s “Attack Upon Christendom” is not an attack on his beloved Christianity per se, but rather an indictment of how the Church of Denmark had diluted and trivialized what it meant to be a Christian.

According to Kierkegaard, the State’s approach to institutional worship had commoditized faith and done damage to what he felt was true religion – an intimate, personal relationship with Deity.

By his reckoning, large congregations kept individuals from taking personal responsibility. Furthermore, the State’s push for ever greater numbers of congregants and increased control of their personal lives made church more of a social than a religious institution and co-opted Christian symbols toward secular ends.

Another criticism of Kierkegaard’s was that people had begun to identify themselves as Christian “as a matter of course.” Gone was the struggle and danger of being thusly labeled – it had become a meaningless marker that carried the same weight as being left-handed or red headed.

Kierkegaard thought of this new brand of Christianity as a fake; while it had many of the trappings of religious worship, it was inwardly soulless and counterfeit.

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I believe that a similar dynamic is underfoot today in the world of leadership. Leadership is the most studied of all psychological phenomena – a reality that puzzles researchers of more quotidian behaviors.

I believe this owes to the fact that some part of us believes that we can be a leader, even if our current behaviors and station may do little to suggest that latent potential.

Atlas Shrugged” is a book beloved by college freshman the world over. Despite her less-than-stellar chops as a philosopher, Ayn Rand’s work continues to influence everything from literary theory to political decision-making.

Why? Because we identify with the story’s protagonists and feel that we would certainly be on John Galt’s short list.

This is not so different from the tendency of the underprivileged to vote against social programs that would benefit them. They anticipate one day being rich, and in so doing, vote to protect those that are. Similarly, we long to be leaders and in that longing, tend to see leadership everywhere.

In closing, let me clarify that I don’t believe leadership to be the birthright of the select few, nor do I think that by many people leading, we cheapen its value.

I’m on record as saying that leadership can be taught and I do believe that it is available to people in all walks of life. What I am saying is that the solipsistic notion that leadership is our due must go.

We have spread leadership too thinly. We have cheapened the term by coronating others too easily and by taking the mantle upon ourselves too lightly.

If leadership is worth having, and it is, it must be struggled for, sought intentionally and hard won.

Remember, if everything that you do is an act of leadership – nothing is.

Author:

Dr. Daniel Crosby is an organizational psychologist and President of IncBlot, a consultancy that helps businesses select and develop exceptional talent. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @incblot or on Facebook.

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