• The Elements of Leadership

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    Yesterday,
    I lectured half a dozen high school students on the elements of
    leadership. These were pre-screened students at a small but rapidly
    growing Christian school. They had already demonstrated leadership
    abilities. They were coming out for half a work day to shelve a
    few of my books.

    What
    could I tell them of value in 45 minutes? Not much.

    Here
    are some of the basics. Maybe these will be interesting to you.

    SELF-IMPROVEMENT

    There
    are fewer leaders than followers. Over and over, we see Pareto’s
    20-80 rule in action. About 20% of a particular group will account
    for 80% of the productivity, or trouble, or whatever it is you’re
    considering. Leadership involves gaining access to the 20%, and
    then, over time, the top 4% (20% of 20%).

    The
    fact is, most people don’t want to lead in most areas of life. But
    80% of them do want to lead in some area. They want to be respected
    for something. Leadership is a sign of respect. People feel ill-equipped
    in most areas, but in some area that they know something about,
    people are willing to lead the 80% who don’t know what’s happening
    in this area.

    I
    think almost anyone can be turned into a leader, if he or she wants
    to become one. This person won’t be a leader in every area, but
    in one area, yes. But the person must pay the price.

    The
    greatest book I have ever read on leadership is Douglas
    Hyde’s Dedication
    and Leadership
    . It was published in 1956 — a long time
    ago. It’s still in print. Hyde had been a leader in the Communist
    Party in England during the 1930’s and 1940’s. He rose in the CP
    to become editor of the CP’s daily newspaper. He converted to Catholicism
    in the late 1940’s, as he records in his autobiography, My Story.
    In seminars, he began teaching Catholic priests about the techniques
    used by the Communists in gaining influence. Dedication and Leadership
    is a short version of his seminars on leadership techniques.

    In
    the book, there is a remarkable chapter, "The Story of Jim."
    Hyde had given a speech in which he said that he could make anyone
    into a leader. After the lecture, an overweight, stuttering man
    came up and asked him to make him a leader. His name was Jim. Hyde
    knew he had his work cut out for him. He went to work.

    He
    had Jim dedicate himself for a year to mastering his trade. He was
    a factory worker. He told Jim to show up at every trade union meeting,
    set up chairs, do the grunt work, and keep his mouth shut. In other
    words, he told Jim to make himself useful in simple ways. But, most
    important, would be Jim’s commitment to doing the best job he could
    on the production line. He had to show his fellow workers that he
    was competent. Actions speak louder than words.

    Jim
    did as he was told. Within two years, he had become a leader in
    the union. He had worked on controlling his stuttering. His confidence
    level was much higher. He was, of course, even more dedicated to
    the Communist Party, because Hyde had delivered on his promise.

    Why
    does this strategy work? Because of two things: (1)men’s
    respect for work well done, which in turn reflects on the worker;
    (2) the service principle.

    The
    Communists stole the second point from Jesus. The disciples had
    been squabbling over which of them would exercise leadership.

    But Jesus
    called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which
    are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over
    them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so
    shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you,
    shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest,
    shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be
    ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom
    for many (Mark 10:42-45).

    With
    respect to the first principle, Leonard E. Read of the Foundation
    for Economic Education used to say, "When I’m on the golf course,
    people don’t come up to me for advice. They prefer to ask Arnold
    Palmer." Yet Read had hit half a dozen holes-in-one in his
    career. He kept at it, always trying to improve his game. Read’s
    point was simple: self-improvement is the key to leadership. Read
    had never gone to college, yet, through FEE, which he began in 1946,
    he almost single-handedly created the libertarian movement. He even
    wrote its original how-to manual, Elements of Libertarian Leadership,
    which is in fact a self-improvement manual.

    These
    two books are the ones I would use in any class or seminar on leadership.
    The third would be Frank Meyer’s The Moulding of Communists.

    STICK
    TO YOUR KNITTING

    You
    can’t be a leader in every area. You must acknowledge the reality
    of the division of labor. You must specialize.

    Find
    out what you really love to do, and concentrate your efforts on
    this. Pick that area of your life in which you want to excel for
    a lifetime. Then devote time, effort, and money to mastering it.
    The key is mastery. You must become so proficient that people who
    are interested in this area come to you without your having to ask
    or recruit anyone — like Arnold Palmer on the golf course.

    If
    you will devote 5,000 hours to almost anything, you will become
    an expert if you have any innate ability at all. You will be so
    good at it that you can distinguish poor performance from good performance,
    and understand how to avoid the poor and deliver the good. If we
    are talking about a 40-hour week, 5,000 hours is two and a half
    years. If you devote an hour a day, it will take you 15 years. If
    you start at age 20, by 35 you will be an expert. For something
    that takes an hour a day, that’s not too long to wait.

    That’s
    why starting young is so important. It leaves you time to exercise
    leadership.

    What
    hurts people is that they don’t stick with it.

    They
    flit from interest to interest. They lose interest.

    They
    get bored. They cease to work on self-improvement. It just isn’t
    worth it any more. This leads to the next principle.

    DON’T
    GET BORED

    Jack
    La Lanne, the 80-something expert in exercise, says that you should
    devote 90 minutes a day to exercise. But he also says that you should
    vary your routine. Boredom is what keeps people from continuing.
    The key to sticking the program is to avoid getting bored.

    If
    you are constantly working on self-improvement, you should not get
    bored if the field you have chosen is worth pursuing. There is always
    more to learn. At some point, you will become a teacher. That will
    pressure you to get even better.

    One
    of the techniques used by the Communists was to give a new member
    a stack of Daily Worker newspapers and send him out to sell
    them. This sold newspapers and gained income, but it also got the
    new member into trouble. He would be challenged verbally by anti-Communists.
    He would not know the answers. This would pressure him to take evening
    seminars on Communist theory.

    The
    Black Muslims (Nation of Islam) adopted this technique in the mid-1960’s.
    They would station their people at supermarkets frequented by whites
    and blacks, and have them sell Muhammed Speaks. (The technique
    ceased to work in the 1970’s.)

    That’s
    why it’s important to select something really worth doing early
    in your career. I decided at age 18 what my area would be: biblical
    economics. No one taught it. There was no textbook. There was basically
    nothing. There was no money in it, either. So, I knew I would have
    to do some hard plowing, but I also knew that I could become the
    world’s expert if I stuck with it long enough, because there was
    no one else doing it. As I have said for years, I now have a monopoly.
    Unfortunately, demand is still low.

    I
    have never gotten bored with the project. I plan to devote at least
    another decade in doing the research, and then write an Adam Smith-sized
    book on it. The Web has arrived, and also publishing-on-demand technology,
    so it’s a lot easier to write a book and get it published than when
    I started the project in 1960.

    You
    can keep plugging away if you don’t get bored. That’s why picking
    the right topic or area of service is so important. First, it has
    to be worth doing. Second, it has to offer a lifetime challenge.
    If it lacks either element, you probably won’t stick with it.

    IT
    SHOULD BE WORTH DOING FOR FREE

    When
    leadership brings applause, fame, and a chance of making a lot of
    money, the competition gets stiff. There are a lot of people trying
    to climb their way to the top. Not many will make it. Of those who
    do, not many will keep the top position. In Hollywood, there are
    only a few John Waynes, Henry Fondas, or Jimmy Stewarts who hold
    the top for decades. A Clint Eastwood shows up, but not often.

    But
    if there is not much public applause or positive sanctions, you
    can stake out your territory and become a major player. If the area
    is important, but inherently a non-profit activity, your competition
    will be mostly amateurs. This allows a dedicated person to become
    a leader.

    If
    you want an example of the consummate modern master of such service,
    study the career of Mother Teresa. She helped orphans in Bangladesh.
    With full-time dedication and a manual typewriter, she quietly created
    an international service organization that helped tens of thousands
    of people. I think it was Peter Drucker who said that if any profit-seeking
    business was equally large, the director would require a multi-story
    building and a support staff. She ran it from Bangladesh with a
    manual typewriter. She even replied to me in a letter.

    How
    did she do it? By sticking with it. The project was worth doing.
    No one else was doing it. In a Muslim nation, a Catholic nun was
    respected and even loved. She performed a crucial service for which
    there was no money in Bangladesh to pay, so she raised money from
    the West. She received thanks by the end of her career — acclaim
    and fame beyond what most fame-seekers ever dream of. That’s because
    she did it without any intention of seeking fame.

    I
    doubt seriously that she ever took a management course. She probably
    never read Dale Carnegie’s How
    To Win Friends and Influence People
    . If she did, she did
    not take it seriously. When the Clintons invited her in 1994 to
    appear with them at the National Prayer Breakfast, she gave a talk
    in which she mentioned the evil of abortion.

    She
    saw a need and went out to fill it as best she could.

    It
    is worth noting that her organization has a waiting list of volunteers
    who are willing to spend their lives in selfless service, while
    other liberalized, modernized Catholic orders are shrinking from
    a lack of replacements.

    DIG
    IN

    The
    average American Protestant pastor stays at one congregation for
    about 5 years. Then he moves on. He never builds up what the Communists
    called a cadre. The members know that he will move on if he is successful,
    or if he gets bored, or if he confronts problems that don’t go away
    rapidly.

    A
    congregation’s lay leaders dig in and wait out the pastor, who come
    and go. Pastors find that they face roadblocks in their ministries
    because the laymen in the boards know that they hold the hammer,
    long-term.

    A
    pastor who sticks for a decade begins to get his way. He wears out
    the laymen. If the pastor is both patient and prudent, he can outlast
    the opponents. He has the pulpit. They don’t.

    Liberals
    in the mainline denominations figured this out over a century ago.
    If they could gain control the denomination’s national boards, which
    were full-time paid positions, they could outlast the laymen and
    pastors at the General Assemblies. What they forgot was attrition.
    When old members died, they were not replaced by young members.
    Because the liberals made the church seem more like the world, outsiders
    figured that they could keep their tithes and offerings for themselves,
    and use their Sunday mornings for amusement. The mainline denominations
    wound up with too many chiefs and not enough braves: leaders with
    a declining number of followers. But this took a century. The liberals
    dug in; their opponents came and went. The liberals had a long-term
    plan. The conservatives didn’t.

    Pick
    a geographical location and dig in. Don’t leave. Don’t answer the
    call of more money elsewhere. Become a fixture in the community.
    Become reliable people who are called on, year after year, to show
    up at meetings. Most people will not show up. Those who do will
    wind up in the positions of leadership. Woody Allen once said that
    80% of success is just showing up. He was right.

    A
    familiar face is a trusted face. A person can get away with almost
    anything if he is one of the town’s good old boys. The smaller the
    town, the truer this is. As Hyde’s book shows, a person who has
    shown up for years can slowly move an organization in almost any
    direction he chooses unless there is someone else on the other side
    who is equally faithful organizationally and equally self-conscious.
    There rarely is.

    RESPONSIBILITY
    AND AUTHORITY

    For
    years, I have told people, "Authority flows to those who take
    responsibility."

    Most
    people do not want to take responsibility. They are risk-aversive.
    They would rather not succeed than risk failing in public. The person
    who wants to lead can take advantage of this preference on the part
    of most people.

    Accept
    responsibility where no one else wants it. Along with responsibility
    comes authority. It is a package deal.

    A
    person who is willing to accept the blame for failure, but allow
    others to gain the credit for any success, can run the show from
    behind the scenes. The old line is true: "Success has many
    fathers. Failure in an orphan." If a person is willing to claim
    responsibility for the failure, he gets to make policy.

    The
    man who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the American
    libertarian movement, was a master of this strategy. He never took
    any credit, but he extended a lot of it. He wrote the checks. He
    did this for decades, invisibly. He would fund a project for three
    years. If it worked, the project’s director would get all credit.
    If it failed, he would fund another project. After the man’s death,
    his nephew followed the same policy. The nephew put up the loan
    money in 1946 to allow Leonard Read to start FEE. The fund’s money
    also financed Ludwig von Mises’ graduate students. It funded Murray
    Rothbard when Rothbard could not get a teaching job. It funded F.
    A. Harper, who used the fund’s money to publish Rothbard’s masterpiece,
    Man,
    Economy, and State
    (1962). In her later years, it funded
    Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a dedicated
    libertarian. It funded me in the crucial summer after my graduation
    from college. If you were to trace back the conservative/libertarian
    movement before the Hiss-Chambers case in 1948, most roads lead
    to his checkbook. But nobody ever follows the money.

    He
    avoided publicity like a plague. For four decades, he was one of
    the most influential private citizens in Kansas City, Missouri.
    Yet you have never heard of him. His name was William Volker. The
    civic leaders in Kansas City had no awareness of his work in libertarianism.
    The libertarians had no awareness of him at all.

    http://www.kclibrary.org/sc/bio/volker.htm

    There
    is a biography of him titled, appropriately, Mr. Anonymous.
    Almost no one has ever read it, which would have pleased him. If
    you read any history of American conservatism, there will be no
    reference to the work of the Volker Fund. That, too, would have
    pleased him. (The Fund’s papers are in the Hoover Institution, which
    received the distribution of the Fund’s assets a quarter century
    ago. The Fund’s story would make a very useful doctoral dissertation,
    a rare item indeed.)

    CONCLUSION

    I
    call my strategy the dogcatcher strategy. You have heard the phrase,
    "I wouldn’t elect him for dogcatcher." So, run against
    him. Start at the bottom. Scrub the toilets. Do the work that nobody
    else wants until the system depends on you. Keep learning. Keep
    improving yourself. Stick to your knitting.

    http://archive.lewrockwell.com/north/north21.html

    May
    2,
    2002

    Gary
    North is the author of Mises
    on Money
    . To subscribe to his free
    investment letter (e-mail), click here.

    ©
    2002 LewRockwell.com

    Gary
    North Archives

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