|Lao Tzu. Source: Wikipedia
Since Lao Tzu’s time, however, most of our leaders have been highly visible individuals espousing ideas, values and policies that most of those being led are willing to follow with determinism and loyalty. That description may be rather lean on what distinguishes leaders and their followers but the general idea is, I think, fairly accurate with few exceptions.
Up until the last century the individual, charismatic, eloquent leader with vision, ideas and championing definite policies was possibly in the general interest of society. But no more.
Our growth as social beings is bringing us to a break from that style of leadership to more collective, cooperative and co-existing ways of decision-making and taking action. The complexity of the world demands it. No individual can hope to access enough information or process enough ideas in order to make the decisions that society needs to make. Indeed, an individual who attempts to tell us that they can is worthy of suspicion.
Danielle Annells makes exactly this point when pondering the choices she had in the recent Australian Local Government elections. “I’ve noticed that those who advocate for uncompromising positions on certain issues are the ones I’m least likely to vote for” she writes.
Annells seeks a change in the mindset of many of today's leaders. We certainly do. More so, we need a change of mindset at the very core of our understanding on how society makes decisions and takes action in the future.
The characteristics of such a new mindset include:
- acknowledging that the issues facing society are complex.
- recognising that we are all inter-connected and that we are intimately connected with the earth and her myriad of creatures.
- understanding that data, facts and figures are only one piece of information available to us.
- understanding that being rational is only one mechanism available to us for decision making. We also have visceral, sensual and other mechanisms.
- discovering our desires for greater say in the decisions that affect us and our descendants.
- realising that we all have access to common sense and that no one of us have ideas that are of greater value than any other.
- knowing that our current means of selecting our decision-makers is not designed to encourage the previous six characteristics.
Since the beginning of the 21st Century there have been many books published alerting us to the dangers facing us (climate change, terrorism, inequality, water and food distribution etc.) and others that espouse new ways of decision-making to help deal with these issues.
However, there have been few attempts to critique the way in which we select our decision-makers and even less that suggest mechanisms that might enable us to tap into the rich tapestry of ideas and dreams of the vast majority of humanity.
The first step, I suggest, is that we must cast aside our notion that leadership resides in charismatic or eloquent individuals and that the only way of getting the “right” leaders into decision-making positions is to vote for them.
The second and further steps? Well, that's up to all of us collectively, cooperatively and using common sense. (This blogsite has hinted at some of those steps in previous posts.)