Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part Two

lostThe inner crisis of a disintegrating society is constituted by the fact that too many people inside this society are not told what to do…
An unemployed man [or a hampered man] is a person who looks for orders and can’t find anybody to give him orders.*

I am a master electrician, although I haven’t worked in the trade for several years now. One thing about working in a trade is that once you’re past being a first year apprentice, your responsibilities on the job are no longer limited to the tool belt. You have to begin training the guys less experienced than you. And once you’re a journeyman, you’ll likely discover that most of your time on the job is teaching and supervising the apprentices.

The number one thing that will stop an apprentice from doing his work is a lack of knowing what to do. It won’t be laziness or apathy. He simply either was not given clear instructions, or he is too overwhelmed with the task before him. And once that happens, he’ll either stall out altogether or begin lying about what he’s actually doing.

I remember working for a company in which the boss (not a very good boss) left an apprentice to run a fairly large job. There were several different areas in one warehouse where electrical work needed to be done. The apprentice had the skills and knowledge to do every job, but he was struggling and falling behind. The boss sent me to help him get back on track. After walking through the job site with the apprentice to see where he was at, he said to me, “There is so much to do, and I just don’t know where to start.”

To remedy the situation, all I needed to do was lay out a systematic task list for him to follow: “Do that job first, because you’re going to need that powered up in order to do the next job. Do that other job next so that we can move this junk into that corner to have space to do the next thing. Next, do such and such…….” Once he knew what to do and in what order, he was back to working at his normal efficient speed.

Visionary leaders are rarely good at creating systematic task lists. Because their leadership style is so rooted in rhetoric, their connection with practical realities is severed. Visionary leaders are often throwing bricks in the air to build the second story of a building for which no proper foundation has been laid.

It is amazing what can be accomplished with mere rhetoric, and as I have written about before, visionary leaders are needed to inspire people at the beginning of a movement. But it is also amazing at how quickly the rhetoric can become completely meaningless. Some things sound good and wise when spoken, and they might even be true, but when you actually stop to ask what the thing said really means and how it applies to real day to day life, it proves to be completely worthless. And when I hear followers of visionary leaders parrot their slogans without thinking, like Winston in 1984 I get a little lonely and depressed.

When a visionary leader sees that his followers aren’t doing what he expects and hopes for them to do, he usually writes them off and says, “They just didn’t catch the vision.” And he might actually be correct, but does he ever ask why? Also, because his expectations are what they are, he usually is only followed by more future visionary leaders, which isn’t always desirable.

master 002
Mark Aspery ~ Blacksmith

A master knows that when his followers are not living up to his expectations, it’s usually because he hasn’t clearly defined what needs to be done at ground level. He hasn’t laid out the systematic task list. He assumes his followers are already passionate about the work and striving to be masters themselves (otherwise they wouldn’t be there), so he doesn’t waste time using himself as an example to inspire them to work harder or embrace the vision. He knows the passion will come from the work itself when the followers know what to do.

I am currently learning the skills and techniques of blacksmithing. Now, you can’t honestly call yourself a blacksmith until you’ve learned how to forge your own tongs. My first attempts at forging tongs resulted in embarrassing monstrosities which I kept hidden from my family so they wouldn’t laugh at me. I watched how-to videos and looked at pictures of completed tongs, but I could not get them right.

IMG_2682It wasn’t until I bought a book in which a master laid out the forging process, step by step, systematically. “Measure this much here … isolate this much material there … hammer down to half the bar’s thickness here …” Only then was I able to forge the tongs, and they turned out quite well.

When a visionary leader is most needed and effective, the movement which he is leading is in such a state of rapid growth that no one cares if there is any systematic structure at all. The movement is riding on a wave of excitement, and for the time, that is sufficient. But that wave is temporary. The master needs to step in and create some proper systematic structure.

Now, when I say “systematic structure” I am not talking about creating a bureaucracy. I am a libertarian, and I hate all unnecessary rules. But, it is a false dichotomy to say that you can either have structure or freedom.

A master is a master precisely because he knows how to create freedom in the boundaries of structure.

*Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, The Origin of Speech, pg. 14-15

Read Part One here

Also check out Infinite Regression and Visionary Leaders

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Visionary Leaders Vs. Masters Part One

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.

Read Part Two here

Related reading…

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

Shop Class as Soulcraft

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What is Hell? (Part One)

Hel-Statue-norse-mythology

Odin contemplated the girl [named Hel], and he remembered his dreams. Then Odin said, “This child will be the ruler of the deepest of the dark places, and ruler of the dead of all the nine worlds. She will be the queen of those poor souls who die in unworthy ways — of disease or of old age, of accidents or in childbirth. Warriors who die in battle will always come to us here in Valhalla. But the dead who die in other ways will be her folk, to attend her in her darkness.”

For the first time since she had been taken from her mother, the girl Hel smiled, with half a mouth.

Odin took Hel down to the lightless world, and he showed her the immense hall in which she would receive her subjects, and watched as she named her possessions. “I will call my bowl Hunger,” said Hel. She picked up a knife. “This is called Famine. And my bed is called Sickbed.”*

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The kingdom of the dead was ruled by one of the twelve great Olympians, Hades [or Pluto]… It is often called by his name, Hades. It lies, the Iliad says, beneath the secret places of the earth. In the Odyssey, the way to it leads over the edge of the world across Ocean. In later poets there are various entrances to it from the earth through caverns and beside deep lakes.

Tartarus and Erebus are sometimes two divisions of the underworld, Tartarus the deeper of the two, the prison of the Sons of Earth; Erebus where the dead pass as soon as they die. Often, however, there is no distinction between the two, and either is used, especially Tartarus, as a name for the entire lower region.†

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“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell [Hades]: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”‡

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For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment … The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished…§

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“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [Gehenna].”||

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“If I wait, the grave [Sheol] is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.”¶

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Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.
Justice the founder of my fabric mov’d:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.
Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.**

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* Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017, page 81.
† Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Little, Brown and Company, 1942, page 42.
‡ Matthew 11:23
§ 2 Peter 2:4,9
|| Matthew 5:29
¶ Job 17:13-16
** Dante Inferno. Words above the gates to Hell.

12 Rules for Life (Book Review)

jordon-peterson-bookCanadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has gained quite a bit of fame in recent years through his controversial (but not really controversial) stance on some social issues. Many people have been listening to what he has to say and are finding answers to the tough questions about life which they’ve been unable to find from, what should be, the normal sources for such conundrums. All of that has compelled him to write this book: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

This book is kind of like a Christian book written by a non-Christian for Christians and non-Christians. There’s really two types of Christians: 1) The born-again and goes to church every Sunday type; 2) The merely product of western civilization type.

A brief story explaining what I mean by the second type (which I heard someone tell once, but can’t remember when or where)….

A reporter travelled to a middle eastern country for a story. Going through passport control, he noticed the border officer stamp his passport “Christian.” He then said to the officer, “Why did you stamp ‘Christian’? I’m an atheist, not a Christian.” The border officer ignored his complaint and waved him through.

Later, at his hotel, he observed some boys outside the building playing a somewhat gruesome game: They were hitting newly born puppies with a baseball bat, sending them flying against the hotel wall. That in itself is horrifying enough, but what really bothered the reporter is that the mothers of the boys were all sitting around watching and doing nothing, enjoying their day, laughing, and conversing together. The reporter then thought, “Ah, maybe I am a Christian after all.”

The point of the story is that if you are western, your morality is Christian. Whether you like it or not, you are heavily influenced by Christianity.

Jordan Peterson is a type two Christian. His book is full of Biblical quotes. Even though he might not even believe in the God of the Bible, he knows that the values of western Christianity are what shaped the best culture in known world history. He knows that if Christian values are forgotten and abandoned, it will lead to chaos. Indeed, this is already happening.

Peterson has dedicated much of his life to studying totalitarian cultures (the ones in which millions are murdered by their own governments), and he has had many patients in his practice whose lives are a “bloody mess,” as he would put it. Using his studies, his own experience as a psychologist, and his Christian influenced wisdom, he’s put together a fine book designed to help people get their own lives in order.

The 12 Rules are:

Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping.

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Rule 4 Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.

Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.

Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

Rule 8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

Rule 10 Be precise in your speech.

Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding.

Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

This is a dense book with a lot of information. I imagine the number one complaint by readers is that it is too long, and overly explanatory. But, if I were to give a one or two sentence long explanation of each Rule (which is far from the thorough conclusions put forth by Peterson), it would go like this…

Rule 1: Don’t be passive. Stand up for what you believe in — literally. Stand up straight. It has more effects than you realize.
Rule 2: Take care of yourself as though you were someone you deeply love and care about. Of course! But, many of us are quite negligent in self care.
Rule 3: Don’t hang around with losers, or you will become one too.
Rule 4: We’re all on different paths — some are further along than you, some are behind. Comparing yourself to them will either discourage you, or make you proud.
Rule 5: Of course you love your child, but do you like your child? Do others like your child? Will your child grow to be a likeable adult?
Rule 6: If the world around you is in a chaotic mess, start with the small space directly around you, put that in order and move out from there.
Rule 7: Think long-term.
Rule 8: You might not be able to know the truth about everything, but at least you can know what’s not true. So, don’t lie.
Rule 9: You can learn something from anybody.
Rule 10: Words have power. Use them carefully.
Rule 11: Kids need to gain confidence when they’re young so they can grow to be strong adults. That means doing dangerous things. Leave them alone.
Rule 12: Life is suffering. Take time to enjoy all the small pleasures when you can.

I give the book 4/5 stars, and I recommend you pick it up.

Related articles:
Jordan Peterson on Channel Four News
What are the Most Valuable Things to Know?

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