What makes someone a leader?
When I was a little girl, I had the usual fantasies of big strong male leaders who were heroes, yeah, I mixed up leaders and famous comic-book type heroes and that was foolish — because usually heroes worked alone (usually in strange costumes) to halt villains and stuff and that’s why they were called heroes, using raw power and all.
I was married to a jazz musician who was the leader of his jazz quintet. I found that leadership in this case was pretty much doing all the boring work of checking contracts, dealing with surly club owners and constantly making sure the musicians and singer got to the gigs on time and would show up at a rehearsal or two. He was a good leader – the musicians dug his original compositions and his playing. But they showed up to play, they’d do rehearsals for free, but they didn’t do all of the rest of it.
I guess my biggest leadership role in meatspace was when I managed a transcription service. That was pretty much the same story … I had to make sure all the work was done correctly, and basically I had to allow myself to be hated a lot whenever the temp workers were in a bad mood. Naturally, an authority figure is always a prime target for the woes we don’t want to take responsiblity for, and there I was, as I worked right alongside my transcribers. For the most part they did respect me … but oh brother, they would sometimes eat me alive if the mood was cooking up that kind of a storm.
So to me, a leader is someone who does the work, first and foremost, who shows up and does the work. If they do their work well, most often they find people will gather around them and pitch in. It’s a kind of vibe, I guess.
We have leaders in our government, at least that’s what they call themselves. I think that’s mistaken, though, as what they really are is holders of power, the power that the folks who elected them vested in them by their vote.
So they have power. But do they lead? These last eight years … eh, not so much. We all know the disconnect that has occurred between our elected representatives and the folks who elected them. And we’ve seen the grave consequences of this.
Can individual citizens be leaders? I mean just regular folks, like us. Can we be leaders?
I think we can and in many cases we are.