Notebook of Sand



Curriculum Vitae

• Recent Publications
• Recent Projects
• Conferences & Speaking
"Comparing Spatial Hypertext Collections"
  ACM Hypertext '09
"Archiving and Sharing Your Tinderbox"
  Tinderbox Weekend London '09
"The Electronic Nature of Future Literatures"
  Literary Studies Now, Apr '09
"The World University Project"
  St. John's Col. Cambridge, Feb '09
"Ethical Explanations,"
  The New Knowledge Forge, Jun '08
Lecture, Cambridge University
  Tragedy in E-Lit, Nov '07
Hypertext '07: Tragedy in E-Lit
Host for Tinderbox Cambridge '07
Keynote: Dickinson State Uni Conf
Upper Midwest NCHC'07: Speaker
eNarrative 6: Creative Nonfiction
HT'05: "Philadelphia Fullerine"
  Nelson award winning paper
NCHC '05:
 Nurturing Independent Scholarship
Riddick Practicum:
  Building Meeting Good Will
NCHC '04:
  Philadelphia Fullerine
  Lecture on American Studies
WWW@10: Nonfiction on the Web
NCHC '03: Parliamentary Procedure
ELL '03 -- Gawain Superstar
• (a)Musing (ad)Dictions:

Ideas. Tools. Art. Build --not buy. What works, what doesn't. Enjoy new media and software aesthetics at Tekka.

Theodore Gray (The Magic Black Box)

Faith, Life, Art, Academics. Sermons from my family away from home: Eden Chapel!

My other home: The Cambridge Union Society (in 2007, I designed our [Fresher's Guide])

The Economist daily news analysis

Global Higher Ed blog

• Hypertext/Writing

Writing the Living Web

Chief Scientist of Eastgate Systems, hypertext expert Mark Bernstein. (Electronic) Literature, cooking, art, etc.

Fabulous game reviews at playthisthing.

• Stats

Chapter I: Born. Lived. Died.

There is a Chapter II.

Locale: Lancaster County Pa, USA

Lineage: Guatemala

Religion: My faith is the primary focus of my life, influencing each part of me. I have been forgiven, cleansed, and empowered by Jesus Christ. Without him, I am a very thoughtful, competent idiot. With him, I am all I need to be, all I could ever hope for. I oppose institutional religious stagnation, but getting together with others is a good idea. God is real. Jesus Christ is his Son, and the Bible is true. Faith is not human effort. It's human choice. I try to be the most listening, understanding, and generous person I can.

Interests: Anything I can learn. Training and experience in new media, computer science, anglophone literature, education, parliamentary debate, democratic procedure, sculpture, and trumpet performance. Next: applied & computational linguistics, probably.

Education: Private school K-3. Home educated 4-12. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Elizabethtown College in Jan 2006. As the 2006 Davies-Jackson Scholar, I studied English at St. John's College, Cambridge University from 2006 - 2008.

Memberships: Eden Baptist, Cambridge Union Society, ACM, AIP, GPA.

Alum of the Elizabethtown College Honors Program, sponsored by the Hershey Company.

Lines in the Sand
Leadership: Holding out blessing to others. Signified by a flower in hand

During the fall of 2004, I took a course in Leadership from Elizabethtown College. We were asked to write around 700 words a week. Being me, I wrote considerably more. The following is a list of the significant posts I made that semester, taken from their original context.

Parliamentary Procedure Essay
Sunday, 28 Nov 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

During the fall of 2004, my brother and I gave the members of the Patrick Henry College student senate basic training in parliamentary procedure. I duplicated part of the talk in the Leadership Development class at Elizabethtown College. As part of the assignment, my professors asked me to submit some notes on the topic.

Here is what I sent them: the philosophy and basics of parliamentary procedure.

Servant Leadership
Saturday, 27 Nov 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Bourbons of Bourbons, they called him. He had danced with Victoria at her coronation. And yet now, years later, he had come to this: leading a band of armed men on nocturnal chases through the alleys of Philadelphia. A later photograph shows eyes wide with sorrow. They are tired eyes. Richard Vaux saw a lot during his stint as mayor of the newly-consolidated Philadelphia.

Vaux did more to end gang violence in the city than anyone else during the 19th century. During his youth, he had been known as rather too much of a dandy (his mother, when she heard about Victoria’s coronation ball, highly disapproved of her son dancing, even if it was with Queen Victoria). Now, he dared more dangerously-shocking paths, even taking to the streets with the newly-formed police force in their nightly fight against gang warfare.

Vaux was a brilliant strategist. He was working in a new position with little power under low expectations. Although the mayor was only to preserve the peace and serve justice, the previous mayor, Conrad, had failed even in these tasks. Upon election, Vaux fired all of the policemen. He then rehired new police from the ranks of the various street gangs.

Then, he struck.

Mayor Vaux, to dispel distrust of his elite, upper-crust upbringing, was out on the streets each night, fighting against the gangs and breaking up other riots. The people of Philadelphia were amazed. After all, Vaux was an upper-class Quaker! They were astonished that he would even associate with the police, let alone fight alongside them in the gritty streets of Philadelphia’s immigrant areas.

** * **

Mayor Vaux makes a good case study for evaluating quality leadership, but he is not an example of servant leadership. He does, however, illustrate one key part of servant leadership and provide a useful benchmark for identifying certain ersatz corollaries to servant leadership.

Vaux’s brilliance, aside from the wisdom of choosing police from within the gangs, lay in his willingness to get his hands dirty. This did two things for him. First, he was aware of the state of his men. Second, the morale of his men was boosted by his “condescension .”

General George Patton was well-known for eating and sleeping only as much as his men on the field. He made sure he pushed his body just as hard as he pushed his followers. Thus, he was able to demand much more of them than he could have from on high. No one working for Patton could ever complain of overwork, for Patton pushed himself farther than them all. It was this absolute dedication to the task and his men that gave Patton the edge in Africa, Italy, and the Bulge.

Patton was not well-liked. Vaux was well-liked. This is because Vaux was much better at handling morale. He came from a Quaker family, and they knew what to expect from Quakers: uppity philanthropic elitism. Vaux personability and willingness to get his hands dirty went a long way toward enhancing his charisma among his men his followers.

** * **

Enough with fighting. Now, let’s examine two more examples that fail to demonstrate servant leadership but which touch on other peripheral issues within true servant leadership.

The views of Left America (if such a thing exists) in the 2004 election notwithstanding, E.F. Schumaker suggests in Buddhist Economics that there is no need for economic progress to be incompatible with spiritual progress. The key issue, of course, is what is defined as the object of progress. Schumaker argues that capitalism tends to lead people to flawed conclusions that maximum production and maximum gain are the best goals. In setting such external goals, we hollow out the heart of our organization. Schumaker suggests that we reorient our efforts from money and products to people, needs, and relationships.

This is good stuff. Schumaker’s article contains very little Buddhism; most of his comments relate very well to other religions as well. Take Christianity, for example. The book of Ephesians explains:

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Eph 4:28)

Here, we see that the primary Christian purpose for monetary gain beyond personal sustenance is twofold: first, it gives us something productive to do with our time. Second, work brings us resources we can give to others. Thus, one cannot deny that the focus of fiscal responsibility for the Christian is not personal advancement but corporate care and kindness. Many Christians in the United States fail to notice this.

To lead a group of people with their personal needs in mind is not the primary essence of being a servant leader. For example, Burns also thinks this is necessary, but he wouldn't suggest servant leadership. However, awareness of others' needs is a good thing and should be part of good servant leadership.

Buddhist economics and philanthropic/utopian corporations don’t seem to survive well in the American capitalist system. This is because we use flawed criteria to measure success. Under these criteria, Fortune 500 companies are most likely to be the worst at considering the wholeness and needs of their employees and the world at large. They must be so to compete.

Why compete? Bhutan measures a Gross National Happiness Index. Why don’t we? We measure some of these things in the U.S., but the philosophy of the measurements are all wrong. Some successful companies do have high employee morale, like Google. Employees are given one day out of five to pursue personal projects of any type from the office. And yet this is not an attempt to make employees whole and happy. Rather, it is an attempt to entice them to make the company their whole happiness. These approaches are subtle. A true happiness index would not measure how satisfied employees are with their job, but rather measure how satisfied employees are with their whole life. In this situation, the corporation and the leaders in the organizations must acknowledge that they are only one part of that person’s life. Usually, attempts to unify a wholeness of happiness in an employee’s life lay in controlling the person’s entire life through a utopian society or completely-enveloping corporation (a la Pixar). But more control is not in order. Less control and fewer requirements (and less materialism — see Schumaker on complexity and pride) would give the potential for individually-pursued whole satisfaction. But people don’t like to give up control. Both capitalist systems and socialist systems accomplish their ends through extreme control. Even the anarchists and libertarians are rather frightening in their quests for power.

** * **

So far, we have considered an inversion of the task, where the leader participates with the followers. We have talked about an inversion of the goals, where the goals change from the outward, production-based accruing of wealth to the inward, people-based contribution to a whole satisfaction in life. But servant leadership, while it might include these ideas, lays not in an inversion of the task or an inversion of the goals. Rather, it is found in the inversion of structure. Servant leadership is impossible, which is why it is necessary.

And thus we enter the realm of the literary and theological. But first, a hobbyhorse:

Servant leadership is simple: it is based on an inversion, leveling, restructuring, or destruction of the topology of leadership (these are different cases, but this isn’t a doctoral thesis, so I’ll lump them together).

For servant-leadership to exist, one needs a leader who need not be in power. One needs a leader for whom power or the direct personal benefits of power are not high priorities. One may even have a leader who views power negatively, as a necessary evil for the task at hand.

The chair of a deliberative assembly is one of the closest common positions that could be defined as that of a servant leader. The chair is not to have an expressed opinion, but is rather to be an avatar of the will of the assembly, performing a service to the assembly rather than telling the assembly what to do or imposing will upon the organization. The chair is to be completely impartial, dedicated to the mechanisms that allow the assembly to make its own decisions and carry them out.

This rarely happens. People are rather greedy for power, and the deliberative process is very susceptible to abuse. The only check of the backhand power given to the coordinator of the system is parliamentary and national law. The problems of an organization must become very grave indeed to get so far.

Other flavors of servant leadership exist, but none are too far away from a democratic deliberative process. This, in fact, was the model of the early church, as encouraged by Christ in the book of John and perpetuated by the Apostle Paul.

Here’s how it works…

In John 13, we see the much-evoked story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. However, most fail to notice that the organizational lesson was only a corollary to Jesus’s main point: that only those with proper motives can benefit from the spiritual washing He brings to people. Why is this important? Because true (platonic?) servant leadership is only possible with the washing that Jesus brings. Humans are naturally corrupt and corruptible; the best leadership is only possible with Divine aid. (This is the other inversion of Christianity; that self-confidence is an obstacle to outcome-confidence)

Another misconception is that Christ equates himself with the disciples during this scene. Such is not the case. He says:

You call me Teacher and ‘Lord,’ , and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
John 13:13-16

Here, Jesus asserts his superiority over his subordinates in position, power, and wisdom. He is the only one for whom elitism is justified. Yet the example here is twofold. First, no matter his true position, He does not disdain anyone or any work. They should follow that example (see Paul and the concept of the church, the Body of Christ) by treating everyone equally. Secondly, no matter his position, they are all equally below him and thus, no one has any claim to special power over the others. If the leader of Christianity is willing to sacrifice Himself for the good of the people (and, of course, we must remember, His ultimate reign and glorification; these are not mutually exclusive), then the followers of Christ should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the people (and of course, the ultimate reign and glorification of Christ). Because, in the Church, relationships are neither a zero sum game nor a gift economy (See Eric Raymond’s Homesteading the Noosphere for a good description of a real life gift economy). We serve others because we are ultimately serving Christ, and He has an infinite set of resources to give us according to our needs (in this life and in the next).

(Note: thus, for the Christian, neither gain nor need, neither relationship nor greed is the point. Our currency, which is not finite nor human, is spiritual currency, which behaves in a completely different economy. It is not an inverted economy, like the economy of debasement in A Strange Manuscript found in a Copper Cylinder by James de Mille. Rather, it operates on a completely different plane, a completely different dimension. The physical, 4d world is just an extrusion of some bits of it, a la Flatland, by Edwin Abbot. Thus do we only see bits that don’t seem to fit together within traditional human/Baconian-scientific models)

We see the Apostles’ application of this deliberative servant-leadership in the book of Acts, when the church selects deacons (Acts 6) and later on defines the first equivalent of an official church edict (Acts 15).

In both cases, the Apostles involved the membership of the Jerusalem church and delegates from other churches to take active parts in the proposal, discussion, and final decision. The deacons were nominated by the membership and voted on by the membership. When the church needed to discuss the grave matter of reconciling the Jewish customs with the new way of Christ, Paul and Barnabas reported, the people discussed among themselves (one person speaking at a time, as in Robert’s Rules), the Apostles gave their opinions, and the people used a voice vote (though it was probably not formalized, they verbally affirmed one of the proposals). Then, the people of the church selected two men to send out the edict.

** * **

Churches often demonstrate the worst examples of a deliberative assembly gone awry. This is because nothing is worse than Christians out of touch with God (or people who think they are Christians).

Servant leadership goes well with the idea of the Body of Christ.

Exegesis of I Corinthians 12 and 13 would be very useful here, but it would be incredibly long because the passage is incredibly good. The general gist is this: Christians have all be given a measure of Divine empowerment for our unique role in the organization of the Church. Basically, it goes like this:

We are endowed with the Holy Spirit for the task of serving Christ (notice this — serving each other is a result of something greater). Because there are varied needs, we are given varied skills, roles, and tasks. No role is more essential, although some roles carry more responsibility. Since all are loved in the sight of God, and since each has a personal task for which he/she is responsible to God, we have no reason to despise other Christians. Since we all have a different role, we need to work together to accomplish the whole task before us. Furthermore, each of us does have a specific goal (a la Ephesians) to work to build, maintain, and encourage the Church’s success. Thus, both spiritual and physical service to each other (and spiritual service to the world at large) are a part of our direct service to God. The Church is the universe’s largest and most efficient symbiot (although it can’t be seen, and appearances can be distracting). Service to others doesn’t reduce me; the very act of service enhances my own life (not to mention all the enhancements I get from others who serve me).

God holds all this together, because it can’t happen without Him

** * **

A few comments:

Because we all have different roles, follower studies is as important within the Church as Leadership studies. Leadership is not the chief end. Power is not the chief end. Righteousness, fellowship with God/man, and glorification of God are among the chief ends.

Maintaining a Godly power economy within a church is hard enough with God’s help. Secularizing it for capitalistic use is merely a gimmick, “having the form of Godliness, but denying the power.”

The X Factor, A New Kind of Science, and Quantified Life
Thursday, 9 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

First, a pun about the X-factor. Want to know where to get it? Modern corporate science has solved your deepest needs!

I quote:

It's the extra edge in your game that turns up when no one else expects it. When it comes to Gatorade, it's the flavors you know with an added taste of the unexpected.
** * **

The chapters of Burns I have read so far have been very thought-provoking. Within the first four chapters, the most valuable statement he makes is on page 25. Here, he notes that the "basic leadership issue" is one of "agency versus structure." Although he doesn't carry this dichotomy very far, it's a useful way to understand the difficulties and ambiguities of the study of leadership.


Organizations, whether they are planned or not, are fundamental to leadership. Thus, the way people relate to one another enters into the question. So far in human experience, we have chosen to talk about such relations in terms of their structure. In the past, hierarchies have been used to understand organizations. Ideas about government tend to be very structurally-focused, under the assumption that a proper structure goes a long way to cause or encourage people to act (lead/follow) properly. In the 20th century, ideas about hypertext have changed how we think about structure and interrelationships.

Hypertext (most usually seen in the form of flowcharts and diagrams) gives us a way to map out complex groups of relationships and the nature of those relationships. However, such maps are only slightly useful, because they describe one of two things: a model of how things should be, or a model of how things are. They are a snapshot in time, and they don't reflect the reality of a situation through time. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle applies as well. By mapping and observing a structure, you may change it. By consciously attempting to reproduce natural structure, you may seal yourself off from the ability to cause that structure to appear.

These are quantifications, of the type that we see described in Navahandi, which shows us a very structural, observational-based mode of understanding. It is a scientific book, which attempts to use observations and tests to predict future occurrences or derive insights.


Burns, on the other hand, does not focus on structure much. Instead, he's interested in agency, the amount that an individual can influence a situation. Instead of thinking in static models, Burns thinks in terms of dynamics. Thus his ideas are harder to pin down. In some cases even, his list of Enlightenment moral ideals changes depending on the situation.

But Burns is interested in what we are interested in, how an individual within a system can influence the system around him. Notice that Burns is himself rather interested in systems. According to Burns, the way to accomplish good is not to actually work within a system to accomplish good. Rather, it is to change the underlying system to make it more likely to produce good. This is transformational leadership.

Thus Burns is not entirely concerned with individual agency or moral responsibility. He is more concerned about the actions of the aggregate and how their expectations/actions/ways of thinking are influenced by a transformational leader.

Oddly, this view doesn't really give us much hope. Or at least, for Burns, there is no ideal leadership. There is always room for change, and there are always enough bad things going on that continual, fundamental revamping is always necessary. He doesn't have much hope for the idea of getting it right the first time.

The Dichotomy

But I think Burns is right. When we start thinking about the questions of Leadership as a dichotomy of structure and agency, many of the confusions disappear. Sometimes, we're uneasy at talk of structure, and sometimes we're uneasy at talk of agency. By splitting them up and looking at them individually, we can begin to come to an understanding of how each works.

A New Kind of Science

Burns and Navahandi are both very interested in science and what scientific inquiry can teach us. Navahandi has classifications. Burns has the X-factor, which clearly points to his idea of some sort of formulaic element in leadership. There's only one problem. Until recently, no really good way of thinking has been capable of containing all of the factors (the X factor, if it exists, no doubt would the product of an extremely complex equation that itself is the product of an infinity of factors)

Enter chaos theory.

In A New Kind of Science, Steven Wolfram argues for a computerized model that comes closer than anything else in the history of humanity of quantifying reality. It's frighteningly complex, amazingly simple. While Wolfram's computer has not been able to deduce the existence of things such as rice pudding, slumber parties, or MTV, it has been able to model and mimic basic biological interactions and animal social patterns through the use of very simple Artificial Life components. Note, this is much different than Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence (AI) attempts to figure out thinking, and then program it into the computer. Artificial Life attempts to give software some basic rules for change, put it in an ecological environment with other simple software, and see which pieces of software evolve or go extinct. It observes how the software learns to interact with other pieces of software and watches as a mini-universe develops inside the software.

Instead of mapping out an organization in a slice of time, Artificial Life systems allow you to see development over time. They let you quantify and predict contingency.

Wolfram spent over 10 years in isolation planning his theories, which are themselves an example of transformational leadership. If Wolfram comes off as a success, we may never look at reality the same again.

Do I agree with him? Not really. But as a computer programmer, I always find the lack of precise systemization in sociology and psychology somewhat odd. If you're going to quantify, give me something that's good enough for me to turn into an algorithm. Otherwise, revise and rethink.

But Wolfram has figured out a way to take many of the ideas, assumptions, and goals of many social sciences, and turn them into a working computer model. I don't know if anyone could do any better -- barring the emergence of quantum computing.


Is the X factor really calculable? Probably not, at least not predictably so. It's too bad that Burns gives his ideas the veneer of science. But it's a tempting thought to think that we could derive that factor someday.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Tuesday, 7 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

James MacGregor Burns finds a connection between Maslow's hierarchy and the American Declaration of Independence. He then tries to make the case that the all true leadership is moral. Burns believes that the great public values are:

  • life
  • liberty
  • equality
  • justice
  • opportunity
  • the pursuit of happiness

Burns believes that these great public values should be the goal of all leaders. In Burns's view, these public values overshadow other moral systems in importance. He strikes a difference between virtue and ethics. Evidently, one can lack virtue while still being an ethically good leader. Burns is correct on this point, but not for the reasons he thinks. Virtue refers to a type of absolute standard. Ethics refers to a codified definition of the good. Now, there also seems to be a popular meaning of the word "ethics" to refer to a general cultural moral median. I assume that this is the definition that Burns is going with, except that he would probably call it an absolute.

(I won't go into the idea of equality and liberty. De Tocqueville deals with the difficulty of reconciling these two concepts)

** * **

Machiavelli talks about this kind of thing in The Prince, in the section "CONCERNING THOSE WHO HAVE OBTAINED A PRINCIPALITY BY WICKEDNESS". Here, Machiavelli tells about Agathocles, the Sicilian who was able to successfully save Syracuse from Carthaginian attack three times and thus prevent the enslavement of his people. The only problem? He got his position by killing everybody else in power. So Machiavelli notes: "his barbarous cruelty and inhumanity with infinite wickedness do not permit him to be celebrated among the most excellent men. What he achieved cannot be attributed either to fortune or genius."

What Machiavelli says after a second example is very interesting:

Some may wonder how it can happen that Agathocles, and his like, after infinite treacheries and cruelties, should live for long secure in his country, and defend himself from external enemies, and never be conspired against by his own citizens; seeing that many others, by means of cruelty, have never been able even in peaceful times to hold the state, still less in the doubtful times of war. I believe that this follows from severities[*] being badly or properly used. Those may be called properly used, if of evil it is possible to speak well, that are applied at one blow and are necessary to one's security, and that are not persisted in afterwards unless they can be turned to the advantage of the subjects. The badly employed are those which, notwithstanding they may be few in the commencement, multiply with time rather than decrease. Those who practise the first system are able, by aid of God or man, to mitigate in some degree their rule, as Agathocles did. It is impossible for those who follow the other to maintain themselves.

Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.

And above all things, a prince ought to live amongst his people in such a way that no unexpected circumstances, whether of good or evil, shall make him change; because if the necessity for this comes in troubled times, you are too late for harsh measures; and mild ones will not help you, for they will be considered as forced from you, and no one will be under any obligation to you for them.

** * **

As much as Burns would like to deny it, he is suggesting the same system as Agathocles. So long as the people who follow a leader believe he is faithfully serving their desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he can do anything. Because for Burns, ethics is a function of trust, and virtue is a personal option.

The President of the Galaxy
Saturday, 4 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

In Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed president of the galaxy is an amazing person (Alpha Centaurian?).

Zaphod is a guy who likes to party. He likes to steal expensive space-ships. He has dined at the end of the universe (when did that happen?), can escape from the Ravenous Bugblatter from the Planet Traal, and even comes to himself in dreams to reveal his secret plans to himself (he would have told himself earlier, but they were secret).

Zaphod seems to spend a lot of time running from the law.

According to Adams, this makes him the perfect president, because Adams believed that the role of a leader is often to distract attention from the real source of power.

Adams (at least humorously), wrote that this is good, because the only good leader, in his opinion, is one who doesn't want to be one, which rules out anyone who actually becomes a leader.

Navahandi assumes open operation, where the leader has direct contact and communication with followers.

What does leadership look like when it is secret, or buried in hierarchies? (think Pyramid schemes, secret societies, Scientologists)

Leadership and Buddhist Economics
Saturday, 4 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Part of leadership is setting goals, and the goals seem to influence the mode of leadership.

In Buddhist Economics, E.F. Schumacher suggests that one could look at the idea of leadership very differently than most Westerns do. Here in the West, organizations are production-focused. Capitalistic (I would say fallen-human, since greed and selfishness are pretty common everywhere) views of success cause us to seek imbalance: e.g. cost/revenue, attrition/new membership, freedom/ However, instead of thinking of an organization as externally-focused, one could think of an organization as internally-focused, as something that tries to establish equilibrium.

Thus, ideas like "keeping ahead" aren't as important as having workers that are satisfied, well-rested, etc. Risk is less important, unnecessary expendeture discouraged, etc etc.

What does leadership look like in such a setting?

Leadership as...
Saturday, 4 Sep 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

In class, a number of profs came up with the following (approximated) definition of leadership.

Leadership is getting people to do what you want them to do under the impression that they are the ones who want to do it

I found this particularly fascinating, having myself been somewhat a fan of scifi, cyberpunk, and other utopia/dystopia literature. In a book like 1984, this is exactly what we have. We have people who think that they are doing what they want to do, when everything, even their thoughts are being fed to them. The Matrix is also another great example of good leadership under that definition.

I will grant the profs the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn't hook our brain stems up to computers if it gave them power :-), but is this not the presumption of the Philosopher-King?

But I assume that we have read enough history to know that the Philosopher-King is not uncompromisingly able to see the eternal, unchanging truth, or that the Philosopher-King's love of knowledge will be, as Plato hoped, a perfect guide to what is true and good. Yet academically-focused people (myself included) have this habit of assuming that since we are questioning, thoughtful people, we are better at arriving to good goals than others. The 20th century perhaps has taught us differently.

Interestingly, we live in a democracy. But we live in a democracy where people have forgotten the idea of a democracy.

In a properly-run organization that follows any standard parliamentary code (Roberts, Sturgis, Jefforson, Parliamentary Common Law), the person with the least power is the chair. The chair is someone who relinquishes political power so he/she can be a coordinator, a facilitator to help the people express their goals, debate their goals, come to a common conclusion, and enact those goals. Most usually a chair should not vote, should not express opinions on an issue, etc etc.. Thus, the ideal chair is someone who the most people think is most likely to be serving the needs of the organization.

Democracy turns the idea of a leader on its head under the assumption that an interested, caring group is better at making and carrying out a decision than a single person. And yet the chair retains all the symbolic power of the leader. He *is* the organization, precisely because he has given up power to be a medium through which the organization can express itself.

This is the democratic ideal. I have seen it happen properly, but it most often fails. Why? Because a democratic system requires interested, educated, thoughtful members. In practice, the chair or the body don't understand or agree with the ideas of parliamentary procedure, and chaos reigns. Democracy is a fragile system.

In government, we get plurality voting, which results in political parties and elected officials who the majority may not want. In government, we also get people who feel more loyalty to a party than to the organization or the office. The government also does not follow standard parliamentary organization,so they can get away with things.

Also, in government, the existing parties have made it very difficult for anything other than a dual party system. This is another sad result of the plurality vote system. What we need is a preferential voting system similar to that proposed by the Guy de Condorcet.

And yet I find it interesting that independent-thinking types would tend toward a system of leadership which encourages conformed thinking under the guise of independent thought (i.e. getting people to do what you want them to while they think they have self-actualization.

One of the groups pointed out the role of followers. In the last few hundred years, the role of followers has changed. Particularly in places where the basis of democracy is understood, followers expect to have rights to speak their ideas, to debate, to influence the organization, etc.

But most of what I have said relates to organizations in which there is equality. Many leadership situations don't involve equality.

I suspect that the definitions we are most likely going to find are going to be for relationships where the parties are not equal. In the classroom, the professor/teacher is higher than the students. In a family, the parents are higher than the children (imagine giving a 3 year old the right to vote!).

Other settings could involve people who are not equal, but for whom none is inherently higher than the other (we're not talking office at this point, since I am not assuming any given structure, and there are structures in which the offices are higher, lower, or at the same level as the members at large, if members at large exist). People may, for example have different skills, different roles, different assets, and thus be unequal (in a strict sense) while being considered as valuable and important to the organization (if it's an organization).

....etc....etc...etc. I will stop rambling now.