Leadership Involves We, Not Me

Leadership can’t be defined as a characteristic of an individual since it is an emergent property of the relationship between individuals. In short, leadership has to do with a ‘We’ and not with a ‘Me’. Analogously, neither hydrogen nor oxygen has the characteristic of wetness, yet water is wet. There can be no leadership with (just) one individual! This likely could explain why so many academic researchers have failed to reliably model or predict effective leadership by the traits or characteristics of a leader.

This however does not mean, in regards to leadership, that as individuals we haven’t a responsibility for our personal development (as a human being). It simply means that leadership extends beyond the finite egoic ‘Me’.

Hence the development of leadership is at base an issue of transcendence that requires progressing beyond an egoic conception of self. It is a progression toward an understanding of our ‘I-We’ nature, toward an integral sense of self. That is, while you and I are different individual ‘I’s’ we are not separate ‘Me’s’. This ‘I’ that I am and the ‘I’ that you are are deeply connected. And by acknowledging and acting on this connection we become a ‘We’.

When this happens we experience a greater fullness to our life. I am sure we all have had this experience. While some call it team spirit, it is really human spirit.

Recognizing our ‘I-We’ nature puts us in touch with the individual and collective aspects of being human and to the simultaneous responsibility we have as a result. We understand that life in society is not simply a collection of independent individuals bumping into each other as each strives to have it all for ‘Me’. While our economic system would have us believe this for the sake of maximizing our desire to consume we are not mere cogs in this machinery.

We are not simply instrumental to each other’s needs. That fact is that we need each other for more than the satisfaction of our material desires. We have a very deep (inter)penetrating responsibility to each other’s unfolding, and therefore each of us is incomplete without each other. As noted by Amitai Etzioni “the I’s need We to be” (The Moral Dimension). Accordingly, leadership can only emerge when we forsake ‘Me’ and simultaneously act consistent with our ‘I-We’ nature. Progress is not possible otherwise!

22 thoughts on “Leadership Involves We, Not Me

  1. In adition to many other characteristics, I consider that
    to be a leader, a person needs to be self confident and have a lot of self knowledge, which means in some way knowing very well is connection to the whole energy or “spirit” that allows him/her to obtain a certain response (from the universe) to what he needs or wants to achieve.

    Knowing that the whole universe is pure energy, and taking care how to use own energy correctly, empowers a person to create, transform and align things as needed,
    Taking care to allways create good for as many as possible and not only for self.

    habilities to listen, love, accept others, learn, give with no interests, can be VERY suitable, in adition to the Knowledge in the specific topic a person is leading others.
    The less ego in a leader, the better results with those leds.

  2. My largest concern about leadership, as it exists in our culture, is its shallowness. The Alpha wants to win, not for the sake of his/her market, employees, or even the shareholders. This is evidenced by the compensation packages big time leaders get — and now are under attack for the disaster that have caused. A Patriarchal leader, from an evolutionary biological perspective, is given the authority to lead his tribe into an uncertain future because the tribe trusts that the leader has a duty greater than the self to live his or her life in. George Washington is a good example. He embodied a sense of duty to lead a flegling nation to better ground. This is what drove him. And he did it at risk to himself. Numerous generations later, we are the legacy of his leadership conversation. How do we ground ourselves into a conversation of possibilities that creates a more promising future? This is very different than amassing a fortune at the expense of others.

    Rande Howell

    • Mr. Howe, you could not have said it better. I feel we have allowed ourselves to wonder off track due to the great successes of our fore fathers. Instead of studying and following their lead and in their footsteps, we thought better to drift from their sound principals, values, and actions and let political correctness, greed, and self get in the way of selflessness and we.

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