Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters

A visionary leader focuses much on vision, mission, and passion. He wants to be an inspiration to his potential followers. He is big on teams and for the members of those teams to buy in heavily to his vision. For this reason he creates as many opportunities as he can to impart his vision to the team members. Team members are encouraged to lead themselves, and change themselves as needed to be effective team members. Those team members who do not sufficiently buy in to the vision become pariahs.

Aside from evoking passion in potential followers, the visionary leader does not have much to offer. He does not necessarily know the solutions to the problems his followers will face. Nor does he necessarily have access to the resources his followers will need. Rather, he encourages his followers to deal with those issues themselves.

As so much depends on the visionary leader’s public image for his success, those followers who are best at making him look good will be the followers most celebrated and promoted.

bsmithA master, however, does not concern himself too much with vision, or at least not in the same way as the visionary leader. He is on a mission, and he is passionate, but in order for him to lead, he doesn’t require his followers to focus so much on who he is or why he’s there. A master knows what needs to be done, he knows how to get it done, and he has access to all the resources needed to get it done. He knows all the problems his followers will face before they themselves ever encounter those problems, and he is there to provide teaching and guidance.

A master requires hard work and excellence from his followers. Those who do that will be promoted and celebrated. Those who do not become the pariahs. The motivation for the followers is not passion inspired by the leader, but rather passion inspired by the work itself, excellence, and an ever increasing growth in knowledge.

I suppose a good leader will have both a visionary side to him and a master side. But, from my experience, most leaders lean heavily towards one, depending on what field they’re working in. Visionary leaders tend to be found in the business world, or in Christian growth movements, whereas masters are found mainly in the trades. But there is no reason the master has to stay there.

Personally, I prefer to follow a master, and am trying to become one myself.

Related reading…

Platitudes Are Contagious: ‘Company Culture,’ Management Maxims, And Other Bullshit

Shop Class as Soulcraft

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The Forge

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When blacksmithing, you can either work with a charcoal forge or gas forge. Both have their pros and cons.

The charcoal (or coke) forge is more traditional. You can get the steel hotter and you can be more selective in what parts of the work piece you heat up over the gas forge as there is more space to move the piece around. If you want to do any forge welding, the charcoal forge is usually the better choice. The charcoal forge is also messy to use and requires more maintenance.

The gas forge is clean and easy to fire up. Propane is usually not too expensive (depending on where you live of course), and a well made gas forge will be quite fuel efficient. A well built gas forge can get up to welding temperatures, but if one is using flux, measures must be taken to protect the lining of the forge. The opening of a gas forge, depending on how it’s built, can be restrictive on the size of work pieces that can be heated.

I personally use a two burner gas forge. I do have a charcoal forge, but most often the gas forge is more than sufficient for what I’m doing and it is quicker and more efficient than a charcoal forge.

Black Bear Forge is one of my favourite Youtube channels. Here they discuss the pros and cons of the two different forges…

The Anvil

I’ve recently gotten into blacksmithing. A couple of years ago I got into welding. Both these are an amateur interest for me. Working with metal is not only a practical skill to have, but can also be an artistic outlet as well.

The three essential tools of the blacksmith are the anvil, the forge, and the hammer. Here I will write a bit about the anvil. I’ll write more about the forge in another post.

Anvils are difficult to find no matter where you live, but they are especially difficult to find where I live, which is Cambodia. At first I just used a big chunk of cylindrical steel as an anvil, and that works if it’s all that’s available. A large sledge hammer will work as an anvil also. I searched high and low on the internet to find an anvil. It’s actually not that hard to find one online, and there are places in the USA that sell new anvils for reasonable prices. But in Cambodia? No.

But, I did eventually find one. An old Cambodian man had one and wanted to sell. I wasn’t available to see it before buying, but my father-in-law went and picked it up for me, and I just had to trust his judgment on it. When it was delivered to me it was covered in rust, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover after removing the rust that I had acquired a decades old Peddinghaus anvil.

Peddinghaus is a German company founded in 1903. They are known for making some of the highest quality anvils in the world. The particular stamp on my anvil shows that it was made some time before 1930. It is possibly 100 years old. The old man I bought it from had it for the last 39 years. He acquired it shortly after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia thus toppling the Khmer Rouge government. Somehow the anvil ended up in a ditch on the side of the road at the time, and the old man found it. Who knows who owned it in the decades prior to that or how it came to Cambodia in the first place.

The anvil is 110 pounds, and while the face is perfectly smooth, it is curved inward a small bit from many years of use. Regardless, it still has many more years of use in the decades to come.

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Thoughts Without Words?

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In Orwell’s 1984, the totalitarian government is continuously improving on their replacement of old English called Newspeak. The goal of Newspeak is to limit the vocabulary of the people down to the point where they won’t be able to think any thoughts the government doesn’t want them to. It assumes that thoughts can not be expressed without corresponding words, and that thoughts cannot even be thought without those words.

As Orwell writes in the appendix of 1984

“It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’ since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.”

So, is it true? Is it true that it’s not possible to have certain thoughts if your own vocabulary does not have the words to correspond to those thoughts?

In his book, The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker says it’s not true. Words and thoughts are not the same. Potential thoughts are not necessarily limited by a limited vocabulary.

“The idea that thought is the same thing as language is an example of what can be called a conventional absurdity: a statement that goes against all common sense but that everyone believes because they dimly recall having heard it somewhere and because it is so pregnant with implications.”*

“People can be forgiven for overrating language. Words make noise, or sit on a page, for all to hear and see. Thoughts are trapped inside the head of the thinker. To know what someone else is thinking, or to talk to each other about the nature of thinking, we have to use — what else, words! It is no wonder that many commentators have trouble even conceiving of thoughts without words — or is it that they just don’t have the language to talk about it?
As a cognitive scientist I [Pinker] can afford to be smug about common sense being true (thought is different from language) and linguistic determinism [the idea that limited vocabulary limits thoughts] being a conventional absurdity… [There is] a body of experimental studies that break the word barrier and asses many kinds of nonverbal thought.”**

An example Pinker uses is the false idea people have about the Inuit (Eskimos) having many different words for snow, implying they have a deeper understanding for snow than us “southerners” do. He says this is based on false data and the Inuit have approximately the same number of words for snow as the English language.

There is more to say about this. I am currently reading this book and will write a review on it later.

A good question to ask at this point is: What is the difference between thoughts and ideas?

*Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. Penguin, 2015, page 55.
**Ibid., page 65.

Further reading: Past & Future: Connected by Speech