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Basic Leadership Lessons From Lady Gaga

imagesI was approached recently by a friend who was elected last year to his local city council.
He was looking for a book on municipal government to help take a principled approach to the myriad issues he faces from property rights and valid zoning restrictions, to pet laws and public infrastructure, from Sunday use of public sports facilities and local alcohol license restrictions, to backyard hens and the fluoridation of their municipal water supply.
But I think the problem goes deeper than these issues and I am quite certain the solution is more than a book.
It’s Just Broken
I understand that society, like language, evolves, and that is not always a bad thing. But there are so many changes in our society that seem counter-productive or actually destructive that I am now fully alarmed.
What if society is actually broken, and like the frogs in a pot of slowly heated water, we have become so used to the gradual degradation that we don’t and won’t see the damage until it is too late for our marriages, our families, and our communities?
American culture was built on the principles of husband and wife marital fidelity, familial togetherness and dependence, and local community spirit. As these things are being replaced with “A Brave New World” style sexuality, a normalization of broken, blended, and single-parent homes, and dependence on state and federal government handouts, how will this impact the future of society?
In western and eastern cultures, society has been a focus of human endeavor since before Moses, Aristotle, or Muhammad. Society is a human condition. It is a balance of living in close proximity in a community setting, while maintaining a sense of individualism and family. I am always taken back by stories like Little House on the Prairie or the stories of the Wild West, stories of people wanting to get away from it all and then seeking human companionship as soon as they achieve isolation.
Society has always been made up of segments or institutions that work together to satisfy the contradiction of the individual’s need to be alone, and the desire to be surrounded by structure and the masses of humanity.
These institutions can be generally identified as: education, business, family, religion/church, media, community, and government. Each of these institutions fulfills a need in society both collectively and individually and has a tendency to support the other institutions. But as human nature has both good and bad, each of these social institutions has a natural inclination to lord over the others.
Without spirituality or religion/church, we have no central sense of right and wrong; without business, we have little economic stability or wealth creation; without family, we struggle to fill our deep-seated need for familial love, respect, honor and security; without government our rights have little probability of being protected; without media (well maybe we could do without the media) we have no connection to the rest of the world or even the next city over; without a system of education, we can not perpetuate who we are or progress beyond bare necessities; without community we feel alone and isolated.
Institutions of Society
It is likely in our complex world that we have given the social institutions idea little thought, but take it away, for example, as during the disaster of hurricane Katrina, and you get a very clear vision of life without orderly society. But it doesn’t have to take a natural disaster to threaten the peace of organized society. One of the most common threats to peaceful, invigorating, nurturing society is the rise of one institution over the others.
The most obvious are a tyrannical government or heavy-handed church authority. History is replete with accounts of both and the outcome was never good. This dominant position can be achieved either by force and coercion or by gentle, constant persuasion (Alexis De Tocqueville discusses this at length in his classic Democracy in America). To better understand this concept, see the illustrations below:
CAPITALISM (Not to be confused with Free Enterprise)
The lack of true leadership in any one of these social institutions accompanied by the subsequent imbalance of power, causes a society to go astray and for the citizens to suffer. This all sounds kind of academic, but there are many historic and current examples of this kind of social imbalance and the damage it leaves in its wake.
Which brings me to Lady Gaga. (I know you have been waiting for this)images
I didn’t like Madonna and I like Lady Gaga even less…but you have to hand it to both of these so-called artists, they both exhibit qualities that are vital to the success of Social Leaders and Statesmen.
Both of these modern musical icons had a vision of where they wanted to go, they believed in their ability to accomplish that goal, and they let nothing stop them in their pursuit.
It was almost a religion to them.
How many great (meaning impactful, not wonderful) men and women in history exhibited these same qualities? These character traits are neutral, they can be used by both moral and immoral individuals. Both liberty and tyranny have benefited from the application of these leadership traits.
But make no mistake–impactful and long lasting leadership must include; a strong sense of vision for the future, a firm belief in the rightness of one’s cause/vision, and a relentless pursuit of that vision. On a local level, we call this Social Leadership.
Social leadership is simple but not necessarily easy. It is the act of providing leadership–as described above– in one or more the seven social institutions. This sounds simplistic, but how many parents/spouses, for example, are engaged in promoting, protecting and perpetuating the sanctity of the family—just by how they live?
grandparentsgamesHow many grandparents really understand their role in the family, and sacrifice to be involved in the lives of their grandkids?
How business owners do you know who ensure that their business or corporation promotes values and virtues, how many entrepreneurs feel a stewardship towards the population who provide their living?
People who practice Social Leadership by applying vision, belief, and tenacity to one or more of these institutions seldom acquire fame or recognition, but without them the very fabric of our peace and tranquility would be destroyed.
An advance level of Social Leadership is the perilous job of maintaining the balance of all these various institutions.
gandhi-indian-times-01This is a job designed for that individual who after acquiring a strong liberal arts education and years of experience in Social Leadership in her chosen institution(s) of society, now feels the call to work from the bigger picture to advocate, maintain and sustain that delicate balance of societal power so vital to lasting happiness.
We call this type of person a Statesman.
Our definition (actually the great philosopher Aristotle’s definition) is that “what the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions.”
Common Sense
iacoccaIn Lee Iacocca’s book Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, he strikes a poignant cord—with all of these problems we are facing, where is the outrage? And now that he mentions it, where the heck are all of the leaders?
Why is no one other than “beltway fever” politicians putting forth answers, and bad ones at that.
Why are we all just standing around waiting? And what are we waiting for? Where are the ordinary men and women who are the legacy of this great nation?
The Sergeant York’s, the Mr. Smith’s, the Rosa Park’s, the Preston Tucker’s and the adherents of Cincinnatus?
Where are the everyday leaders in society, who have the common horse sense to solve these problems?
Why when every thinking man and woman in this nation knows in their core that, universal health care or a $700 billion bail out or continuing participation in far away wars that we will never win are just about the worst things we can do to a nation already drowning in debt, why then do some of us stand around and calculate how we might profit from such a travesty? And why do the rest of us allow it?
With all of the resources in our modern society; family, media, community, business, church, local government and education–we should have at least few really good solutions being discussed and promoted from every tavern, small business, restaurant, board room and dining room table.
I study history, and I have to tell you, it doesn’t look good. Historically, no nation (outside of Nineveh) has every noticed their own folly in real time. We are no exception. Like other nations from the past, we either assume that we are smarter than the last civilization who tried to borrow their way out of debt (or dig their way out a hole) or we are so ignorant that we don’t have any idea what is happening at all. Either way, our existing course adds up to a really bad time.
So I will take my own admonition and offer a solution, one that I believe has been the salvation of this nation many times in the past and is likely to be the hope for us now. I call it A Renaissance in Social Leadership.
Social Leadership: A Lost Leadership Art
renaissanceIt is generally agreed upon by historians that the Dark Ages came to an end by the advent of a period known as the Renaissance.
This was a period most known for ordinary people and aristocrats alike, who seeing a need in their families, towns, cities and nations, determined to improve themselves and provided much needed societal leadership through rigorous study and the revival of many of the arts, sciences and knowledge lost during the previous 400 years.
Many of these self appointed leaders believed that the church and the government, who had been the stewards of the people’s hearts and minds for so long, were not fully meeting the needs of the people and determined to do something about it. Thus began the Renaissance.
Today I believe it is time for such a renewal: a Renaissance of Social Leadership. I see a vast need for a Renaissance in education and creativity and relationships and values. A Renaissance of Social Leadership means a rejuvenation of individuals, families, and communities.
A Renaissance of Social Leadership means a rediscovery of the joy of learning for learning’s sake, the development of personal mission and a focus on unleashing your personal genius.
But what does this mean in everyday living? It means that rather than just waiting around to be told what to do, we as citizens need to take a leadership role in our communities. It means that mothers and fathers need to start acting like the stewards that they really are and can be.
It means that rather than following the media blindly, we should hold them accountable. It means that we should be actively engaged in our local governments, anxiously following and being involved in our immediate governance.
It means that we should all be pursuing a lifetime education for ourselves and taking an active ownership in the elementary and secondary educations of our children. And demanding a lot more from higher Ed.
It means demanding, encouraging, and providing businesses in our communities that are beneficial to society and who give back a lot. And it means living a life style that is in tune with our spiritual selves.
Although the tactics may be complicated, the strategy is simple—we must take our lives back. We must stand up, assume responsibility and demand that government limit itself, that media stick to reporting the news instead of trying to make it.
husband-wife-embraceWe must be loyal husbands and wives, dedicated mothers and fathers.
We must participate in education by example, not coercion.
We must purposefully get out of debt and create family financial stability.
This Renaissance will happen. But it may have to smolder for decades unless and until you and I decide to do something about it. No government, no church, no civic organization will or can do it on its own for they are made up of people.
This must be a Renaissance of the people, of marriages, of families, and of communities. The time is now for each of us to decide—more of the same—or do we step into our god-given greatness and lead?

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