Visionary Leaders

Visionary leaders are the people who see what needs to be done, and have the drive to get it done. If it weren’t for the visionary leader, little would ever get done.

But, you have to be careful, if you are a visionary leader, or if one has taken an interest in you. The visionary leader tends to be superficial about anything but his vision and thus ends up using people and dumping people when he perceives their usefulness has run out. As quickly as someone is willing to trust you (with no previous experience to do so), they will just as quickly distrust you (again for no reason). Notice with the visionary leader that all his relationships are political.

Don’t use and don’t be used. Plan your life and relationships for the long haul.

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Past & Future

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We are all connected in relationship. Some relationships are more important than others. Some are close at hand while others are far away. But we also have relationship through time. We are connected to all those who came before us, and with all those who will come after us.

Below is a link to an article I wrote about how Christian philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy viewed relationships through time…

Click here: Past and Future

**Note: I’ve updated some of this article in a new blog post.

In Relationship (Part Five)

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Rules and Expectations

“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.”

~G.K. Chesterton

I have three rules for my kids: No fighting. No crying unless you’re genuinely hurt. Don’t touch my stuff. Apart from that they pretty much have free reign. A pastor friend once told me that at his old house he had a large backyard. At first there was no fence around the yard and he noticed his children would only play near the house. Soon after he built a fence, and the children began to play all over the yard. Once they knew where it was safe to go, they were free to enjoy the whole area.

We need to know the rules of the game if we are going to be able to function in our relationships. Have you ever broken a rule, but didn’t know that you broke it until after you broke it? Have you ever been in a situation where the rules were not equally applied to each person? It’s frustrating isn’t it? It fact, it can be maddening.

“Even more than they need goods, people want for their contentment a full understanding of their condition. None can find comfort in a position which he fails to comprehend, and protracted perplexity leads to mental derangement.

Perplexity of Rats and Dogs

“Even rats and dogs cannot live in perplexity. Take three sets of rats: give one set a meal a day; give the other set the same meal only every second day; and restrict the third group to a meal on every third day. All three groups will thrive; the rich, the middle-class and the poor will get on equally well. But take a fourth set of rats and feed them at periods varying irregularly between one and three days and you will see the rats of this set die. They get more than the poor rats, yet while those prosper on their meager diet they perish because their organism is thrown into a state of confusion, all their reflexes of digestion are dislocated, they die of perplexity.

“Dogs are more human than rats, and so the experiment by which Pavlov drove his dogs mad shows us even more closely what is wrong with ourselves. He trained a dog to expect food when a luminous circle appeared on a screen, and to recognize that no food would come when a flat ellipse with a ratio of semiaxis 2:1 was produced. The dog learned to differentiate precisely between the circle and the ellipse, showing signs of appetite when the former, not when the latter was shown. The shape of the ellipse was then approximated by stages to that of the circle (ratios of the semiaxis 3:2, 4:3 and so on) and the training of discrimination continued through the successive ellipses. The dog found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the ellipses and the circle and finally, when the ellipse was given a ratio of 9:8 he became quite uncertain in his discrimination. But Pavlov tried to educate him to the limit and continued with this experiment for three weeks. The result, however, was no improvement in the dog’s training but a total breakdown of his discriminating power. At the end he could not see the difference even between the flat 2:1 ellipse and the circle. The dog’s behaviour also underwent a complete change. It began to squeal in its stand, kept wriggling about, tore off with his teeth the apparatus and bit through various tubes. In short, as Pavlov says, it fell into the condition of an acute neurosis.

“This dog broke down when his powers of understanding were overstrained. They were overstrained when it became too difficult for him to distinguish between the symbols signifying food and hunger. His happiness was destroyed, not by need of supplies but by what Pavlov describes as a conflict between excitation and inhibition which its brain found too difficult to resolve.” (Taken from Visual Presentation of Social Matters by Michael Polanyi.)

If I can’t predict the actions of the other parties in a working relationship, I cannot pursue any of my goals. The relationship breaks down, and I will most likely leave, but not after suffering much frustration.

A contract protects people from this ever happening. A covenant does as well, but for different reasons. In a contract there is a “higher power” (the law court) which can be appealed to if one party does not fulfill its predicted duties. In a covenant, each party is at all times fully giving themselves to the other, so there is nothing unpredictable about it.

The problem of unpredictability can really only happen in one of two kinds of relationships: charity or master/slave — where one party holds all the resources over the other. A slave does not have any options in this situation. A receiver of charity, however, can move on to find new donors.

In Realtionship ~ Part One; Two; Three; Four

In Relationship (Part Three)

friendOther Kinds of Relationships

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

~C.S. Lewis

There are other types of working relationships besides covenants and contracts. Each of these different kinds of relationships may have certain aspects of covenants or contracts, but they are wholly different. The four main types of working relationships that I can think of are:

1. Friendships

  • These relationships consist of one or more people who have common interests. The parties aren’t looking at each other (like lovers), but rather are standing side by side looking forward (see C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves).
  • The duties of the parties in a friendship will include covenant-like expectations, but there is no ritual or ceremony formalizing these expectations. They are implicit.
  • Friendships might last a life time, or not. The duration of the friendship is never discussed. Friendships will end when the commonality between the parties fades away. This might happen when one party has a major worldview change (like becoming religious), when one party matures faster than the other(s), or it might simply happen when one party moves to a new physical location.

2. Charity

  • One party is in need, and another fills that need.
  • Like in a contract, one party needs the other’s resources.
  • Like in a covenant, one party cannot “pay back” the other.
  • The lifespan of this relationship can last a long time or a short time — it depends on the giver’s generosity and the receiver’s need.
  • There are no expectations in charity, except that the giver may want his gift to be used for a specific thing. That specific thing must be determined by the receiver — if it is determined by the giver, it is no longer charity, but a contract. If the receiver does not meet the giver’s expectations, the giver does not get his gift back.

3. Master/Slave

  • The slave simply must do what the master requires as his life depends on it.
  • The master must only care for the slave as long as he wants the slave to be an effective and hard worker.
  • The relationship will last as long as the master wants it to, or until one party dies. The slave cannot determine the length of the relationship unless the master introduces some contractual conditions.
  • There is nothing covenantal in the master/slave relationship. As soon as this relationship takes on covenantal properties, it ceases to be a master/slave relationship.

4. Neighbours

  • This relationship is based solely on the physical proximity of the parities and will only last as long as the parties are near each other (living side by side, driving side by side, waiting in line side by side, etc…).
  • There are certain implicit rules, depending on culture, which both parties will be expected to follow. These rules will (should) be common sense and common knowledge.

There is also a non-working relationship: Acquaintanceship. Acquaintances know each other, but they are not friends, and there is no expectations in that relationship at all, other than basic politeness and neighbourliness when required.

relationship diagram sm

The diagram above shows what I believe are the four necessary relationships. You simply cannot function in this world unless you are in one or more types of these relationships.

The three types of relationships I would consider to be unnecessary (you can survive without them) would be friends, neighbours, and acquaintances. Acquaintances would be, I think, the most shallow of these three.

And then of course there are all the familial relationships: parents, brothers/sisters, cousins, aunts/uncles, etc…. However, I think many of these relationships can fit into one of the three unnecessary relationships. How many of your cousins are merely acquaintances? If you’re like me, most are. Brothers and sisters would often fall into a covenantal relationship — even if those relationships are off and on over the years. The parent/child relationship is of course unique. A child is not a fully developed person, and so, cannot know how to decide to act in any relationship, other than what he is taught. A parent/child relationship is not charity. Any parent who would consider taking care of their own child an act of charity is simply a bad parent.

I suppose two other kinds of relationships we could mention are teacher/student and colleagues. But again, we can fit those into previously mentioned types of relationships — teacher/student is a contract, and colleagues can easily fit into neighbour or acquaintance in relation to each other, combined with contract in relation to a common employer. If one is training and teaching a colleague, that is a contract — not between the colleagues, but between the employer and the trainer.

In Relationship ~ Part One

In Relationship ~ Part Two