Sunday, December 02, 2007

Idealism

I promise that my next blog post will contain some original thought before I do that there's another book quotation I really want to put up here:
'Most leaders are to some extent idealists. They have a desire for things to be different, to be better. Thus, the leader lives all the time with a discrepancy between the world that she wants (and others want) to inhabit and the world she (and others) actually do inhabit. Psychologists call this condition 'cognitive dissonance' - there is a discord between the reality and the ideal. Now, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this discord produces a certain mental and emotional strain in people. This can be constructive, generating passion, drive and energy; but it can also be destructive, producing frustration, disappointment and confusion. Accordingly, one of the mind's strategies to deal with it is denial and repression. Most people deal with cognitive dissonance fairly effectively simply by choosing to look away from the ideal. They come to tolerate the reality by avoiding the evidence, by filtering the data they receive. They fabricate a world in which the discrepancy is less.
The leader, however, is motivated by a desire to hold on to the ideal - indeed it is the ideal that drives her. Accordingly she commits herself to a journey that will inevitably lead her into a dissonance between the reality and the ideal, a tension that she refuses, until she gives up leading, to deny or suppress. Unfortunately, most other people don't want to know about this tension: they are in the business of denial and they don't want to be reminded of how bad the reality is or how much better the ideal is. They prefer blissful ignorance - and the leader, in all the evangelical fervour of her vision, is a fly in the ointment. And so the leader finds herself pursuing the lonely path that all prophets and visionaries down the ages have followed - of being isolated, being a voice crying in the wilderness, travelling alone, ahead of the crowd, on the margins, in a distant land - feeling a sense of belonging but also a sense of alienation.'
From Leading Out of Who You are: Discovering the Secret of Undefended Leadership
by Simon Walker

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3 comments:

Hannah J B said...

Hmmm, I can relate to some of that, especially being isolated and on the margins... and it explains some of the dissatisfaction I've experienced when I've chosen not / neglected to lead.

Ben G said...

Hmm, very good, very provoking.

But does this mean that a better leader would be a realist and simply engage with their "flock" where they are at in life and in their journey's? Helping them to face and engage with their realities (issues, problems, joys), rather than deny them?

If this is the case, how then is the leader leading their "flock" anywhere? They certainly aren't leading them to an ideal of social organisation or engagement anymore. But they are leading (or pushing) the individuals towards Jesus and towards a fulfillment of their purpose on this plant...surely?

Matt Wilson said...

Ben, you'll need to read the whole book for your answer to that! (and you really should - you'll love this book)