Binary Busting #1 – Leaders vs. Dictators

*Menippean satire warning* Leadership is not really a matter of good vs. bad, it’s a matter of amplifying ideas considered effective and acceptable over a certain time period. Can someone burn those “Leaders” Vs. “Boss” memes now please?

So, the world is filled to overflowing with advice on what ‘good’ leaders look like, or what a leader supposedly is. In the current climate of world politics fixated with leadership styles; I’d like to offer some philosophical fat to chew (apologies to those I have just pissed off with a meat eating or considered unhealthy lifestyle reference).

When I studied anthropology I was fascinated with double bind theory and cartesian duality and I read widely. And primary to those studies one notion become clear.

THE binary. Not just any binary. But primordial ooze of social constructs – good vs bad. Good vs bad infiltrates most things humans do and nuance can be lost so easily in the mire.

Sit down. Buckle up. If you are religious, cross yourself, pull out the prayer mat, beads or depiction of any deity, prophet, saint or martyr of your choosing. If you are not religious, then hang onto to your science, relevant belief system, dead or living musician or artist of choice. If you are ‘other’, then wave a crystal, sage stick or do a bog dance or prepare to google stats and take them out of context. The fact is all of you will have a point that will be valid in some way.

This is uncomfortable to write, so I am guessing it may or may not be comfortable, for some, to read.

If I see one more reductionist post or story about what is “good” leadership I am going to vomit. The only thing reduction is good at is great tasting sauces.

But first, an obligatory disclaimer for the manufacturers of outrage and the “you can’t say that” purists. Dictators exist. I am not debating that some leaders become dictators, or are dictatorial from the beginning. This is not angsty existentialism, but I am also sure someone will take it there, and I shall get ready with my popcorn.

Similarly, there are most certainly, leadership styles. But to reduce them down to “one is better than the other”, means donning a funny hat and dancing a jig in the town moot with a jar of snake oil in our collective hands. It’s a sales pitch.

The fact is, some people respond to authoritarian styles and other to humanist leadership styles and some to all the modes in between, around and in circles.

Some of the worlds “leaders” have done awful harm to the world and the planet by killing and destroying. I think most people agree this is bad (yes, I do!), however some will justify it, somehow.

So, a portion of humanity does not share that view, based on experience or their social conditioning throughout life. It’s kill or be killed to their way of thinking, although that might be acceptable to them through “they are taking our jobs, our economy” etc. etc. So leaders who take this view and harness it, are just amplifying what is effective and acceptable to the people they are trying to reach.

And then there is the in between-ers on what is an effective, acceptable view. The “they didn’t die of COVID, they died of an underlying condition – so I am unsure of who I support” folk who will sit on the fence unless they get a painful splinter in the anus, get sick with the virus or someone they know dies. This too is not good or bad, it just is a way of processing information. Some will sit on the fence forever, others will be pushed off it by…well…life. There’s always going to be fence somewhere that all of us will sit on for lack of knowledge or not a large enough splinter.

The notion that there are good or bad leadership styles, in the moral sense, suggests hate spouting leaders who divide and conquer are bad leaders. Yet millions follow them and millions die or create certain social outcomes in their name. So therefore, this ‘evil’ is also good leadership if painted with a binary brush, because that leader has achieved outcomes in large proportions.

Divide (make effective) and conquer (make acceptable) as a leadership technique has worked in the building of kingdoms for a very long time in human history. Even the most moral and ethical leaders can be found promoting a little divide and conquer if you look close enough.

What I am saying this is that people follow other people with worldviews that are acceptable to them at any given point in time and that may shift over the course of a lifetime.

If the ideas of a leader appeal to a human, that leader is effectively reaching someone, then those ideas are acceptable or becoming acceptable to them.

How many more TV shows that put people with different views in the same place under pressure can you watch? Some come out changed, some come out with bits of another views, some come out unchanged. And while there is an argument it’s not a sustained time period with ‘others’ by which to change or that going home to privilege negates that experience – you can witness the varying interpretations of “good” and “bad”.

It’s only when presented with counter positions over a sustained period that humans begin to question the ideas of what a leader or dictator is presenting to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the grains of arguments I thought I held dear in the arguments of supposed dictators. So I watch and listen. And usually I am that annoying person at a party who knows the ins and outs of policy, rather than an assumed position and who is quite content to observe people arguing and learn from it.

Leaders are. Dictators are. But I don’t think we are divided so much as people that the two are concrete binaries as some decry, I think there is a more practical reality than good vs bad leaders. You what a position from me? Perhaps humanity needs to stop treating the world stage like a zero sum game to be won or lost.

But then, I don’t consider myself a thought leader or any other kind of leader, so what do I know? *insert splinter here*

Stay tuned for other choice binaries as this unashamed nobody writes them in my head on walks with the dog over a period of days.

Hypocrisy vs. Integrity

Parenthood vs. Martyrdom

Madness vs. Sanity

Religion vs. Science

Hustle vs. Luck

Left vs. Right

Holism vs. Health

Fact vs. Fiction

Love vs. Loneliness

Alliterations vs. Assholes (I’m trying to resist both, I really am).

*Authors note: Google has reasonable reference to satire. I was asked to refine my brand. So my brand is chaos.