It is the day after Thanksgiving and I’ve eaten my weight in green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, quiche, and pumpkin pie. The post-Thanksgiving lethargy has me ruminating over several thoughts that I thought are worth noting here.
It all started on the topic of leadership. It’s been on the forefront of my mind lately, not because I’m in any particular leadership role (in fact, I left my previous role that was ‘leadership-heavy’ to take on a less stressful gig), but because now that I find myself in a position where I’m not having to make substantial decisions I feel rather ordinary.
I’d venture to say that most educational institutions (and the way I was conditioned to think), teaches us that leadership involves being able to climb that greasy pole of whatever hierarchy one decides to attach themselves to (i.e. partner in a law firm, physician in practice, head of ____ bureaucracy). My Alma Mater’s catch phrase is ‘What starts here changes the world’… it is almost as if their mission is about educating people who can then make a big name for themselves in the world, people with impressive titles, people the university can brag about.
This definition of leadership that I was conditioned to believe is no longer how I define leadership (otherwise, everyone with a college education would be ‘leading’). In fact, I feel that the formulaic and homogenized upbringing of the American millenial has caused us to become complacent, and that for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going.
What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders. This is why I quit graduate school.
Now, I’m thinking about courage and how leadership so gracefully segues into such a word. Because it seems that what makes people thinkers—and leaders – is precisely having the ability to think things through for oneself. Because when you do this, you develop the confidence, the courage, to argue for your ideas even when they aren’t popular. Even when they don’t please your superiors.
So true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions.
Q: How then does one think?
A: Not by multitasking.
Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. This is why I no longer own a television (why should I allow Hollywood and the likes of a handful of ad execs influence my decision making), and why I should probably get off the internet.
But I can’t give up the internet. Because unlike books that stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today, the internet is interactive and I like to read the silly comments section in the Atlantic and Circuit 😉