Thursday, May 31, 2007

Green Party Leadership - Oxymoron?

I know of no organization that has such a crying need for leadership and at the same time has such a seemingly genetic distrust of leaders. Maybe some of it comes from the populist labor movement and people like Eugene V. Debs.
I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week.
Congressional Candidate Byron DeLear has suggested that the GPCA adopt the model of the Green Party of Canada and elect a party chairman, such as Elizabeth May, from whom he quotes (cf FACTIONALISM IN THE GPCA AND VISION FOR REFORM)
"Our policies in the Green Party, of course, aren't influenced by my particular views. The policies are passed through our grassroots, all the policies come through our members. The platform is developed through our shadow cabinet. We have a wide range of views there. But the notions of moral responsibility that the Greens believe in, they believe in for all kinds of reasons."
I started to see if I could find some pithy quotes about leadership to back up my own comments and I found that there are almost as many views on leadership as there were people whose comments ended up in this list of quotations.

One difference is in the view of the "leader" as to their own role. Some, like Jesse Jackson, have an activist view of the leader.
Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.
President John Quincy Adams saw leadership more from the effect that one had on people than on events.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
That difference may be one more reason why Jackson never became President.

The United States is perhaps peculiarly unique in it's distrust of the use of intelligence in defining what should, or must, be done. There has always been a bias against the Eastern, Ivy League, intelligentsia. Yet, Einstein found the one aspect of leadership was the use of one's intelligence.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.
For myself, I rather like the quotation from Adams. I would add to it the words of Eric Hoffer.
In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
Which of the nominal leaders of the GPCA have been able to live up to the expectation that the role of a leader is to make those around you better than they were, maybe better than they knew themselves that they could become?

Which of the nominal leaders of the GPCA fit the model of Hoffer, being learners rather those who claim to have found the truth?

By the time I started to the University of Redlands, I was a licensed lay preacher in the Methodist Church. That befitted my first name, Wesley. Redlands was known then as a Small Christian College... we often claimed "for small Christians." Yet, what I learned there is that I had an affinity for those who sought the truth and a growing distrust for those who claimed to have found it. Now, I find myself wondering what our nominal leaders learned about themselves in all of the strife that led up to the San Francisco General Assembly. Which of them will take the time to ask how their actions have led others to "dream more, learn more, do more and become more..." Did they even take the time to go through that degree of introspection?

I also believe that anyone who hopes to help lead the GPCA forward must learn to trust the collective wisdom of the members of this organization. That would be the ultimate decision. Some become leaders by virtue of their office. One could say that of Harry S. Truman. Others, become far greater leaders after they leave an office, as is often said of Jimmy Carter, known for being our greatest ex-president.

As we sort though what happened, or did not happen, in San Francisco, or in Los Angeles, maybe there are some who, like Carter, would have much more influence as an ex-official. There are others, I am sure, who will step into the roles and, like Truman, show more leadership than anyone expected.

1 comment:

Orval Osborne said...

The GPCA is wrestling with factionalism using a process that requires almost everyone to agree. Can the consensus process work when we do not have unlimited time in meetings? When we do not agree on goals? When factions develop whose only power is to stop actions?