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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Trouble with Sheep

Who runs everything in our world?  Answer:  people who really want to.  What do these people all have in common besides wanting to run things?  They want power.  Power provides control and people who want power want control over their lives.  Chances are, they’re obsessed with control.
What causes someone to become obsessed with control?  Most likely, it was a lack of it in their youth.  They probably had the sense that they were being treated unfairly and there was nothing they could do about it.

I’ve known many people like this.  Most of them become so obsessed with control that they end up annoying the hell out of everyone around them.  They end up getting sidelined, so massive frustration and a sense of helplessness ensues. The others have enough smarts and/or self awareness to harness their energy to gain control of something: a business, a community, a country.  Are these the right people to be leading us?  No! 

I have been a student of leadership for a long time.  I have read numerous books on the topic and observed great leaders when I have found them.  Most great leaders are pushed into leading by people who want to follow them.  Others choose to lead because they have become fed up with bad leaders.  Whatever the reason, they are easy to spot:
  1. They have a strong sense of humility
  2. They always value the contribution of their team more than their own
  3.  They are great judges of character and care deeply about the people around them
  4.  They have tremendous generosity
  5. They have a strong moral code that is immutable
Most people are neither great leaders nor control freaks.  They are sheep.  Sheep believe what they hear.  They would rather accept as truth the word of people they trust than do the research to confirm or refute their claims.  Sheep don’t do the homework that is required in order to formulate an informed opinion.  And, once they’ve chosen a shepherd to follow, it’s hard to move them to another flock unless you can find a way to cut them from their herd.

Great politicians are sheep wranglers that can cut the herd.  This is a skill distinct and separate from being a great leader.  In all likelihood, these skills are largely mutually exclusive – meaning, it is unlikely that we will ever have great leaders running our country or even our states.

If we had fewer sheep, we could spot the wranglers and great leaders…and know the difference.  But, alas, we have too many sheep.  Sheep get the shepherd they deserve.  The global problems we face grow increasingly intractable.  We will need real leaders to fix them.  Unfortunately, there are too many sheep.