Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Democratization of Leadership; and Chaingangs

My birthday has been weird so far. Like a lopsided cake, to put it aptly. It began with a trip to traffic court. This was not nearly as benign as it sounds. There were Prisoners in Chains and Jumpsuits. Aaaaaaaahhhhh. Now, the irony hit me, as I reflected on a highlight in which I once got my picture with a convicted felon. Now, that felon happened to be Chuck Colson. Nonetheless, I found myself eyeing the Men in Chains with slightly less trust and enthusiasm than I had demonstrated in the former Watergate mastermind photo op. The judge read the entire courtroom our rights before proceeding. We all had to rise when he entered. The closest parallel that came to mind was the up-and-down of responsive readings or high church liturgy in Sunday services, which brings to mind another thought: the liturgy of the courtroom might be evoked for ex-cons in your congregations. Just be aware that you might be eliciting negative visceral responses. On the other hand, the themes of punishment, wrongdoing, and mercy are all familiar. Anyway, I skipped up to the microphone when His Honor read my name, wearing a cute birthday-ish outfit. He could tell, I sensed, that my presence in the courtroom was rather a Shirley Temple moment. He knocked off my speeding fine considerably and took off the 'failure to appear' that I had been unaware of because I never changed my address on my driver's license and didn't get any bureaucratic municipal mailings for the past six months. It was all extremely thrilling and boring at the same time, and for about five minutes I yearned to be a Prosecutor so I could Throw The Book at people. I got over it when I saw how much mundane activity they have to endure.
I then proceeded to a New Bank to open a New Account with a voucher for $100 if you switch to this bank. Yay. After sitting for fifteen minutes drinking watered down complimentary coffee and flipping through a magazine full of Hillary coverage, a gentleman who had been doing next to nothin' finally cheerily offered to wait on me. Yeehaw. His friendly demeanor wore thin when he started strewing 'dear' in his ongoing dialogue of question and answer. My nearest and dearest friends know that I have been known to stare down a waiter and inform him that, "first of all, I'd like a diet Coke, and second of all, I'm not your sweetheart." Gentlemen sixty five and up may call me sweetheart all day long. Women my age and up may call me hon or honey. Seventeen year old cashiers should not call me hon. A man roughly ten to twelve years older than I am should not call me dear, or I'll dear him. I finally began to feel sorry for him though, because if you have that job at his age, I don't know, it's a little Michael Scott-ish. So, I benevolently smiled mercy down upon him and resisted the Urge to Squelch. Particularly when I saw the books lined up behind him. The recent leadership title by Rudy Giuliani. A John Maxwell. That's when it hit me: my primary problem with the John Maxwellization of the world is simply this: not everyone is meant to be a leader. I honestly don't believe it. Everyone is meant to have character. Everyone is meant to be an honest, hard worker. But try sending a battalion of leaders to boot camp. They quickly learn that their leadership skills mean as much as the drill sergeant says they're worth, which is diddly squat. And not everyone can "build a skill set" that will make them an effective leader. To suggest that anyone is a leader is a cute, Cinderella, you-too-may-be-a-Princess kind of appeal, but we all know people who have leadership books sitting out on their desks who have little or no ability to carry it out, no matter how many things they underline or dogear or quote at the bottom of their emails. And anyone opening a bank account for me who gives condescending glances when he asks if I have a job and calls me 'dear' when he doesn't sound any more Southern than a two-bit actor will not be able to learn leadership. The democratization of leadership is a bad idea. I challenge someone to pen a book entitled, "how to be a gracious follower." Now THAT might be a very valuable contribution to functioning in an organization.
On a completely unrelated note, the University of Kentucky is a startling 5-0 going into this weekend, and Notre Dame is a dismal 0-5 for the first time in their history. Ok, universe. You win.

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