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Peace is not only possible….it is desirable by all people who value all humanity living on a healthy planet! Are we seeking leaders, or parents, controllers and someone to blame? What do we really want?

May 6th 2008 – By Catherine Whelan Costen.

As I follow along with the rest of the world watching the U.S. Democratic leadership race and several other Canadian political leaders in their various roles, I find myself contemplating the dynamics of leadership.

What do people want in their leaders? How is that position defined by the people and is it in sync with the ‘leader’s’ concept of the role? Does a leader know it all? Are they required to do it all?

We have all played the children’s game, ‘follow the leader’ or ‘Simon Says’ or some other variation of play which allowed one child to lead the rest. Some children take that role to mean they can order the other children around for a specific amount of time. Others simply ‘do’ and watch as the other children mimic. Sometimes this child tries to lead the others to do something harmful or dangerous, or simply uncomfortable. Sometime the others follow. Sometimes they don’t. It is the same in adulthood.

I was reading some comments in the news by a former Canadian female politician. She was commenting on women’s role in politics, especially regarding leadership. Here is the quote:

“Winners in U.S. elections get to run the most powerful nation in the world, McLellan said, adding that people often see that as a man’s job.

“When you think of commander in chief, you think the military and of leading into battle,” McLellan said.

“It then creates this environment in which if you’re a female candidate, you go out of your way that you are strong enough and tough enough for that role.”

When I read that statement along with other comments I’ve read or heard lately I began to really think about what that means.

Just like children who see the chance to be the leader as the ‘prize’, or the ultimate priviledge, superior position and holding so much power in their little hands, I see that in many ways we have not really matured as a species.  When she says  ‘winners….get to run’  this statement reflects that sense of ‘oh boy, are they ever special or lucky’.

This observation is not meant as a criticism of Ms McLellan’s point of view. I cite it simply because it really reflects a key to a rather common limiting belief. Why do many people believe in this war concept? Why do many believe that big, means aggressive? Why do we think of men being bigger and therefore more powerful, tougher and more capable of handling the running of a country? If our only solutions to living in some sort of harmony on this planet involved killing our opponent, then the mightiest will definitely win. But what do we win? What harmony is gained? What is the result to people, plants, animals and all life forms after the war?

As a woman who has been in positions of leadership, I can say that the concept of requiring force, or physical power, or masculine aggression to accomplish things is highly overrated.  Women can be just as aggressive as men and just as destructive, but what does that prove? Men can be just as nurturing, sensitive and diplomatic as women, so why not chose the kinder way?  I also know some people will say, “well if someone is breaking down your door you would want a gun rather than a very nice dialogue to protect you!”  That may be true because of the world we have created to live in, but when we create a world where all people are respected, all people have homes, food, jobs and do not live in fear; it is unlikely that anyone will want to break down anyone else’s door. Can we visualize a world like that? I think we can. It won’t happen at all if we do not desire it.

I wonder if the people’s fear is playing into our choosing leaders and giving them our power because we feel so inept? I wonder if we often transfer our sense of smallness to creating illusions of ‘bigness’ in our governments or leaders to help make us feel safe?

If we examine the canine world ( for a small comparison ) we can see that dogs who are fearful often bark constantly to warn, or bite for no particular reason. Whereas a big dog who is secure and could probably rip a person apart, has no need to bark or bite, as she is simply not afraid. She feels safe.  Are we that different? We could be, but are we?  We have the ability to use our own minds to figure out threats, to assess information and to decide if we need to be parented by our leaders. On the other hand we can continue to listen to media or politicians who tell us the world is unsafe and we need to be protected from all that scares us!

I see leadership in a totally different way. I don’t think a leader needs to be tough, nor aggressive, nor authoritarian. A good leader in my view, has a vision of what can be. They are decisive. They are confident but not arrogant. They are able to express their vision so well that they inspire others to see it also. Leaders are often not  elected, they are chosen. Consider why you do the things you do? Sometimes it is because you saw someone in your community doing it and thought it was a good idea.  When I see someone using a cloth shopping bag I am reminded that I could do that too. They are a leader by example.

Once people begin to see a vision that meets their own hearts desire,  they want to share in it. It is not a matter of blindly following along, but rather a joint or team effort to move towards a shared goal.

A good leader knows how  to relate to people and encourage others to use their own gifts and talents to assist along the journey. A leader is not a dictator. As we so often see today, ‘leaders by title’; who are leading no one. They are simply ordering others around or more often than not they are following someone else’s orders, which the people are totally unaware of.

Leaders with vision are able to draw others to the plan and step in and out of their role easily. When they are required to lead in one direction or the other they do. They guide and they walk in the direction required while others follow or walk side by side. When someone else has an idea or concept to bring forward the leader moves to the side and graciously allows the other person to lead. This does not diminish either person, because the truth is we are all equal. We each have specific gifts and talents for a specific task. When that task is complete we step aside, because the role of a true leader is not to hold power over others, it is not an entitlement, not earned, nor a right. In fact it is an opportunity to serve the community, or the group which has nothing to do with ego. It is simply the leader’s turn. A good leader does not become attached to their role, nor do they feel they are entitled to it. It is not who they are; it is just a task to do for a period of time.

It should never be used as a tool for manipulation. If we all saw leadership for its value rather than its power, we might just chose leaders who can assist us to reach the destination we desire. Far too often we elect or chose leaders and then give them the power to rule us, rather than lead us. So this is not about blaming anyone for the way it is, rather it is about changing our beliefs so we can achieve what we really want.

Far too many adults are stuck in children’s beliefs of fear. That fear has often been used to control us; when we succumb to our fear of not being equal to others, we tend to be eager to give up responsibility for ourselves. We elect people to make laws to protect us, but then we are angry if those laws also deny us something we want.

We want to have our freedom to be, but we want leaders to take away all the risks that freedom suggests. We want our food safe, but we don’t want laws that restrict our choices. We demand new laws every time someone in our society does something that makes us feel afraid. Those same laws end up taking away our own freedom. For example we have laws regarding traffic safety; seatbelts and helmets for motorcycles because people were thrown from their vehicles in traffic accidents, and the result was that we were horrified. We have collectively agreed that we don’t want to have to deal with blood and carnage on our highways. We don’t mind if people die a way from our seeing eyes, but not in front of us. So we have in many cases demanded laws to protect us from this pain. It is not enough to simply say to people, ‘listen we have found that wearing a helmet or seatbelt would be beneficial for you’ and allow the individual to decide. No. There must be a penalty for not going along with the collective agreement.

So we can see that we as a people have decided in the past that we wanted to turn over our fear to someone we perceive as a leader or protector so we can feel safe. I do believe that was in the past. I believe that today many adults have realized that we don’t need to be afraid of our planet, each other, different cultures or different traditions.  We don’t need to be afraid. We are here on the planet to experience it, to love it, to learn from it and each other.

We don’t need leaders, male or female, who are tough enough to wage war. Killing each other so we can be right, or so we can have control or so we do not have to fear those people is not justified, it is not necessary and it is not appropriate for humanity at this point in our history.  We can do better than that.

We need leaders who are smart enough, diplomatic enough, fair enough, compassionate enough, inspired enough,  secure enough, and truthful enough to create peace, harmony, community, open communications and connections, while offering dignity and  respect for other human beings.  Many people want leaders to lead by example and to embrace the offerings of other inspired individuals. We all have something to contribute to the world community and great leaders will be capable of seeing those gifts in others and bringing them forward for the greater good. Great leaders are available and will be found as soon as great people begin to look for them. We are presently experiencing the result of our collective desire. Once we accept that our security is within, we will stop seeking it in others. We will stop giving our power to others so they can look after us.

As soon as we are ready we will seek out real leaders that we can eagerly follow. I truly believe that people ( male and female ) who have a vision for a better world are ready to move towards that ideal and they are fully secure enough to move into that place for a time, with no expectation of permanence, nor entitlement. Our future depends on their understanding of true leadership and on our expectations of that evolutionary leadership!

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Filed under: Social/Political/Human Issues

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