Solitude is not the same as loneliness. It is only when we long for company that we feel lonely. It is as if our life consists of many pieces of music, each in various stages of composition. Sometimes we are content with the music we have but sometimes we become aware of our loneliness only when, for example, the right person comes along to complete our composition.
I spent the other week backpacking with a friend in the Ten Lakes area of Yosemite. My companion was a serial tech CEO, that is to say he starts and/or runs technology companies until they have proved themselves strong enough to stand on their own or, more usually, can be sold to a larger company. It goes without saying that he has strong leadership skills, strong enough to grow and keep together a team of talented employees while selling a yet unsubstantiated vision to hard-bitten stakeholders such as angel investors, venture capital firms and strategic partners. He is your classic Type A personality, driven, constantly alert, always moving and thinking about the next opportunity.
I, on the other hand, make no claim to any special leadership skill or expertise. If you really want to learn about leadership read the work of my blogging friend John Childress, someone who has actually made it his life’s work to study the subject. My own observations below are simply those of a humble backpacker who uses his time in the wilderness to think about what he has read or observed.
When I backpack alone I am careful, deliberate and plan accordingly. When I am in the company of a strong leader such as my tech CEO friend, I tend to be passive, inattentive and leave the planning to him. In short, strong leadership makes a passive follower of me. I suspect this is true of many of us. If someone is willing to take on the difficult and arduous role of leader, most of us are content to follow along more or less passively. However, given the responsibility and incentive to make our own decisions, without the option of having someone make those decisions for us, most of us will do just fine, while at the same time developing and honing our ‘self-leadership’ skills.
Personally, I am tired of strong leaders who flex their leadership skills over others. I am tired of being led into wars, political struggles, financial crises and global campaigns for this or that issue. I am tired of the lying platitudes of corporate leaders who are just as willing to spy and sponge on their own customers as they are on taxpayers.
We need to change the emphasis from ‘leaders’ who lead and ‘masses’ who follow, to a population of individuals who have learned to lead themselves, who are willing to take responsibility for their own lives and who are consequently extremely reluctant to turn over such responsibility to anyone else. Such ‘self-leaders’ need to start by practicing self-control. Without self-control there can be no true leadership. The solo backpacker has learned to take responsibility for him or herself under demanding conditions. The aspiring ‘self-leader’ could do worse than start here.
“Years ago I stopped worrying about how to grow our church and instead focused on growing me. As I grew me, our church grew.” — Rick Warren (20,000+ people/week)