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Experts and Leaders

Experts and Leaders

It’s really more about whom we choose to follow, isn’t it?

  • The impressive academic, research or clinical professional with lots of letters after their name…or the poet who faced down cancer and is quietly changing the world one insight at a time.
  • The CEO of a huge company…or the five orphaned kids whose string quintet in their parents’ honor helps open new possibilities for at-risk kids and adults.
  • The minister of a world-wide mega-church…or an almost-unknown nun whose simple advocacy made her a legend in her own lifetime.
  • The decorated bureaucrat or the soldier finally returning to his family after too many deployments, often without one or more limbs.
What really matters is authenticity…what’s real. This is not to say that folks with advanced degrees, Fortune-500 CEOs and mega-ministers aren’t authentic — some of them are — but rather to note that some experts come from a different kind of school, learn their skills in a crucible rather than a classroom and forge their insight from experience.
Both kinds of experts are necessary. We need experts asking the hard questions now more than ever…and we need experts courageous enough to ask world-shifting questions to which no clear answer is yet known. We need experts brave enough to say “I don’t know” and with conviction lead us to the unknown answer.
Leaders must have the will to ask the hard questions. Courageous leaders must challenge followers to look for better solutions…and inspire followers to stay the course when no good options appear, even if that means rejecting “expert” advice, taking a risk, being wrong.
My head respects the experts, but my heart years for an authentic leader.
  • I want a leader who isn’t afraid to ask questions the experts think are foolish, and who doesn’t bash those who ask truly foolish questions.
  • I want a leader who’s resume includes recovery from addiction, or cancer, or loss of a limb or two, and who has had real results since then. 
  • I want a leader who has survived being blown up, watched buddies die and inspires my will to end the wars that result in such violence, and I want a leader with the strength of will to defend and enforce peace.
  • I want a leader who strongly defends my freedom to choose his or her leadership, and has compassion and grace for my friends who chose someone else.
  • Most of all, I want to know that my leader didn’t result from a popularity contest or 10-best survey.
This isn’t about politics, government, religion or capitalism. It’s about being a member of some skillful multi-million-member orchestra auditioning conductors. Anyone can wave a baton; to really invite a miraculous performance takes a maestro — an expert — with a studied, hard-won authenticity that even the newest concert-goer can feel when such a conductor takes the stage. I imagine great musicians can see it in the movement of the the baton…how its silent tracing outlines, inspires and welcomes the possibility for sublime sound…leading member of the orchestra to a new potential.
With such a leader, great things become possible.

With such leadership, even the least of us achieve.

Led in this way, each of us aspire to inspire — to be examples for each another — to create a culture in which potential becomes common currency and individuals are valued without the sickness of individualism.
Yes, there will be detractors, and nay-sayers, and even violent resistors. There will be loss of life, both for those who assail such an ideal leader and those who protect him or her. I could give my life either to defend or to serve a leader like that.
What about you?