Come to the water

I can’t seem to get my mind off the idea of leadership. If you’ve been reading The Whole Report these past few weeks, you know that. I’ve been pondering leading and how motherhood and homeschooling and writing and business all require it. In particiular, I told you this past week about Jon Acuff’s newest book, Start. It’s his encouragement to those of us who have a dream, but yet haven’t fully launched any action to make it come true.

I hope you can appreciate these kinds of books, because this topic brought me back to a short little hardback I read a few years ago, Tribes, by Seth Godin, an author famous for his pithy books and blogs on leadership. Tribes is no exception. I am particularly brought back to the tagline of the title of Tribes. It reads, “We need you to lead us.”

Is that true? Do we want to be led? Do we need to be led? Not only did the leadership theme of The Whole Report bring this to mind, but also some recent conversations I’ve had with people who are leaders, who are vocal about their leadership and indeed have a tribe following them.

After speaking to one of these leaders, it dawned on me...that’s how he gets things done. He is leading people...people who want to be led. It looks like he’s doing a great job of it. He and his team are doing amazing things, seemingly impossible things. I don’t mean to say his followers are on a tight leash and sit when they’re told. It’s more like their leader is satisfying some innate desire of theirs to be inspired and challenged to rise up to some great cause. It’s quite a beautiful thing.

Godin puts it this way in his aforementioned book,

“Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new.”

I love that. I love that he used the words, “rush” and “thrill.” I think we all could use more of that. I could. I have the habit of, well, just sticking to my habits. That’s great if it doesn’t get me or you into a rut. Sometimes, though, that means you and I settle for what we’ve always done, what we’ve always known, what we’ve always had. THAT can lead to mediocrity, and I hate knowing that I’ve settled.

In fact, I hate the word, mediocrity. Mediocre can be defined as uninspired, forgettable, unremarkable, lackluster, run-of-the-mill and so-so. Who wants to be described with those words? It’s not the folks who step up to the plate and get the team built and the game going.

Godin goes so far as to call these new leaders, those who have built tribes, heretics, and describes them as “ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.”

I spoke to another leader yesterday who has done that. She’s created an online presence, one where she simply expresses her views on current issues and shares the writings and musings of others who are like-minded. When she did that, she created a movement - to the tune of more than 20,000 followers. Maybe, it seems we are hungry for leadership. No, maybe, we are starved for it.

If you’ve seen the movie, The American President, starring Michael Douglas as the Commander-in-Chief, you may remember when Michael J. Fox, playing a speech writer, delivered this line:

“People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.”

I’ve always been mesmerized by this line. Now, I know why...it’s true. The president's response to his speechwriter's impassioned plea is that the masses will drink sand when presented to them instead of water because they don't know the difference.

I pray the voices we’re listening to are leading us in the right direction...and that we can distinguish the water from the sand that surrounds it.