The Art of Leadership and How the Few Always Lead the Many
The current article will focus on three subjects that are interlinked with each other namely, leadership, the relationship between leader – follower and, how it is possible for the few to lead the many.
Nevertheless, before we continue you should keep a couple of things in mind.
First, due to space constrains, and because the aforementioned topics are vast, we decided to illustrate to you the core ideas and the results of each of the subjects, without wasting space with any unnecessary explanations.
Second, in the article there will be notions which you may not like or agree with… However, it is not a popularity contest; the goal is to demonstrate to you how leadership is been implemented.
Third, in some occasions – especially in the second part of the article – you will be confronted with ideas that some of you may term as “conspiracy” theories. Rest assured it has nothing to do with any conspiracy theories nor is the article trying to uncover any hidden truths.
Finally, the article will try to clear a few core misconceptions that are noticeable through the entire leadership literature review.
That being said let us begin by addressing the notion of leadership.
Nowadays wherever you look you will observe that the term “leadership” appears almost everywhere; be it in the business industry, in the educational systems, in the military, in politics – basically everywhere.
Nevertheless, here is something very peculiar about leadership: whoever you will ask to define to you what leadership is, nobody will be able to provide you with a concrete explanation; only vague answers.
What? You may wonder… so, let us put our suggestion to the test:
Type “leadership” on a search engine and you will get almost 500,000 results about it.
Again, type “leadership definition” on a search engine and you will get almost 11,000,000 results about it.
Still not convinced?
Go to a supposed leadership guru and ask that person to define for you leadership. Once you write down the answer, go and meet another “leadership expert” and ask that person to define leadership to you as well. To make the long story short, what you will get is:
“The number of definitions, about leadership, that you will receive will be equal to the number of people you will ask”.
For instance, if you ask 1000 people you will receive 1000 different definitions.
Defining the Leader:
Surprisingly, whenever you will ask somebody to recount the characteristics of what makes a (great) leader, what you will be left with, is that the amount of characteristics – that are supposed to make a great leader – can only be applied to an omnipotent existence called god!
Consequently, and according to the above insight, if a person is not an omnipotent god than he cannot become a great leader; if, on the other hand, you have a great leader than that person is not human but a god – and on a materialistic world there is no room left for a god.
Which means that we either have no great leaders or that we have a few gods walking around us.
So, what is the correct answer? None of the above!
And what does it proof to you?
That the striking majority of the existing leadership literature review is nothing more than just unsupported theories that have nothing to do with reality!
If so, why is that?
In both cases, be it leadership or the leader, the confusion that exists is due to the fact that: leadership is more an art rather than a science.
Indeed, science may be able to support the leader during the decision-making process yet, leadership is an art!
And due to this fact most literature reviews’ suggestions go astray…
In other terms:
“Leadership is not like following a cooking recipe because the ingredients that leaders use are not dead but live, not compliant but resistant.” - Keith Grint.
The above statement indicates two factors: one, that leadership is not a science; and two, leadership deals with humans hence, pushes us towards the direction of psychology.
But before we go into it any further, let us first address the issue of leadership.
What is the essence of leadership anyway?
For leadership to come into existence, by default, you need a leader and a follower; in other words, someone who leads and, at least, one person that will follow the leader.
Based on the above realization the five core aspects of leadership can be addressed:
For someone to attain a leadership position, and to lead others (the leader), it makes that person, by default, superior to someone else (the follower): be it in terms of cunningness, of physical strength, of intellectual, of having the right connections or whatever else reason. Since the individual has attained a leadership position he can lead others or “order people around”.
Equality is a misconception:
In short: equality does not exist!
Indeed, like it or not, the law of the jungle is what shapes our human societies, specifically, the strongest always rule!
By default leadership demands that the follower follows (obeys someone else), and that the leader leads (he rules over someone else); thus, at least some form of inequality has been established – Dr. Nikolaos Sapounas.
Wherever you will turn your eyes to, you will realize that the so called “power pyramids” exist everywhere; and that model is what defines our societies.
What is more, even if people claim that in developed countries, equality amongst its citizens has been established, reality teaches us that some people are either above the system (regardless if we like it or not yet, that is a fact) or are able to bend the system according to their desires (that is also a fact).
What is more, being ethical or not – will not necessarily grant you a leadership position; unfortunately, this statement is also a fact.
“The measure of a man is what he does with power” – Plato
You must understand that ethics is an idea and not a scientific solid fact. What it tells you is that the value of ethics varies depending on parameters such as: beliefs, society, religions, time (ethics change based on the era – what was in the past, is not today), space (your location/country), psychological factors (i.e. traumas) and so on.
Consequently, for someone to rule over others, being ethical does not guarantee to the potential leader a leadership position.
Moreover, the value of ethics changes according to the perspective from which it is viewed. For instance, when the conquistadors where conquering South America, from the European’s standpoint, what their soldiers did, to the natives, was ethical and acceptable; but from the natives’ standpoint, they acted completely unethical.
What lesson do such historical facts teach us?
That the strongest will always be the ones to dictate the values of ethics towards others; regardless, if some people may agree or disagree with this statement.
Leadership primarily deals with the interactions among people. To put it in other terms, leadership has to do with people and therefore, psychology plays a vital role in the entire process.
Additionally, when we refer to psychology we should not limit ourselves to the area of how the human mind works but also, we should include aspects such as: body language, cold reading, greed, human emotions, (social) networks and so forth.
Furthermore, due to the fact that psychology is an intangible occurrence we can concur that leadership manifests itself as an art rather than a science; and that is why existing literature review cannot provide us with a concrete, and specific, definition about leadership as well as scholars cannot agree upon the matter of “a leader’s characteristics”.
In other words, the definition of leadership and a leader’s characteristics alter according to circumstances.
Leadership vs Management
Are Leadership and Management different; and if yes, what is their difference?
All in all, leadership (in contrast to management) comes into existence when people have to deal with something unknown (and hence, the individual has to open a new path) while management occurs when people are confronted with issues they have encountered before, in the past (and thus, the individual is managing something).
Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that a person can be a leader and a manager simultaneously; as a matter of fact, this is the main rule.
For example, if you are a CEO of an organization you will have to deal with everyday mundane activities; in this case you act more like a manager rather than a leader. But there will be times in which your organization will have to deal with issues that you may not have encountered before. People will look at you, expecting from you to give them new directions of what to do so as to resolve the matter. What you will realize is that there are no correct or wrong answers, nor good or bad solutions, but it’s the unknown; and you will have to push forward no matter what. In this case, you become a leader.
The three main forms of leadership:
Leadership is generally expressed in three main forms which usually, in the literature reviews, are termed as: Command, Management and Leadership (based on Keith Grint’s model).
The Command-type of leadership is exercised when you will have to deal with critical problems (like a crisis etc). In this case you command.
The Management-type of leadership is implemented when you will have to deal with tame problems (you have confronted such an issue in the past, regardless how complex such a problem may be; hence, you already have an idea of how to deal with it and what the results could be). In this case you manage and act like a manager.
The Leadership-type of leadership is utilized when you will be confronted with wicked problems. In this case, you are confronted with something entirely new and unknown to you. In this instance you lead and generally, the main course of action is to find the correct questions so as to deal with the problem.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” - Albert Einstein
Before we will turn our focus on “how it is possible for the few to lead the many”, one final aspect needs to be addressed in regards to leadership; and that is: what kind of leadership-style provides a leader with the greatest impact towards his followers?
Leadership’s greatest impact:
In order to answer the question of: “what kind of leadership-style provides a leader with the greatest impact towards his followers?”, we did examine a plethora of leaders and obviously enough, we also focused on history.
The answer is as follows: If a leader wants to attain leadership’s greatest influence towards his followers than the leader has to lead by example!
In other terms, from the moment a leader is able to align his words with his actions, leadership’s influence will be maximized!
The best historical example was Alexander the Great! Obviously enough, throughout history, there are many examples of leaders that did follow that principle; and whenever the aforementioned principle was adopted by leaders, their leadership’s influenced was maximized – reaching, many times, the point of reverence from their followers.
How the Few Lead and Rule the Many
If you observe leadership throughout history you will perceive that, always, a small number of people were able to lead the masses; but never the reverse. As a matter of fact, the same applies nowadays as well. What is more, the same idea is valid in today’s business world, politics and so forth.
Another fact that becomes apparent is that the benefits, which derive from any given leadership authority, always favour the ruling classes but never the masses.
The ruling classes only focus on what benefits them and exploits the masses accordingly (and that is not a conspiracy theory but a fact!).
On the occasions in which the welfares of the ruling classes happen to align with the interests of the masses, only then, will you witness something peculiar: the ruling class “humbly serving” their subjects; otherwise, the masses always end up with the short end of the stick.
Surprisingly enough, the striking majority of people that fall into the category of “followers”, are unable to grasp, and to digest, the aforesaid fact; and usually, the cause for it is that their ethical values cannot assimilate to such unscrupulous mind-set. Yet, history and reality is filled with such examples. Even to some extreme cases in which a coup d'état occurred, the leaders – of the new order – very quickly, turned into a ruling class that followed the aforesaid principle.
A great book that describes most of it is George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.
So why is it that the ruling class, which in numbers is always small, is able to control the masses (aka the majority)?
Due to the six following factors:
In order to understand the first factor, imagine it like this: there is a pot which has 1000 US dollars and there are two groups of people. The first group consists of 10 people while the second group, consists of 500 people.
So as to get the pot money one group would have to achieve control over the other.
If the members of the first group collaborated with each other they would be able to gain 100 US dollars per person.
If on the other hand, the second group would collaborated with each other they would be able to gain 2 US dollars per person.
Obviously enough, the first group of people would gain a lot more from collaborating with each other; and that is exactly why they would work closely together and their actions would be synchronized towards that goal. Furthermore, a type of hierarchy can easily be agreed upon.
What is more, due to the small number of members, polyphony of contradicting ideas can be avoided and differences can be bridged.
On the other hand, the second group, due to its large numbers and the minimal gain, usually misconceptions arise and the group commonly falls into disarray; and eventually they will seek someone to lead them (or to get them out of their mess); and under such circumstances the few are able to lead and to rule others.
Trailing history’s records, about leadership personas, it becomes apparent that the leaders, typically (there are exceptions of course) had a higher intellect compared to their followers.
Note: With the term intellect we also include the faculty of someone being able to perceive “the big picture” compared to the rest.
So why were leaders usually smarter than the followers? Normally, that was either due to (a higher) education they received compared to the masses or someone, from behind the scenes, supported the leader’s rise to power.
In the first instance, being educated broadens your understanding of circumstances and you are able to analyse affairs more effective, compared to someone who did not receive an education but also, you are able to constantly increase your knowledge (hence, to evolve).
In the second case, one of the privileges that you receive, from a powerful-friend who acts behind the scenes, is information in advance. This allows the leader to act proactive and to counter problems before they even appear to the public; and obviously, with a little dramaturgy combined with propaganda (aka marketing) the leader can present to the masses whatever story fits his needs. The outcome: the leader appears in the eyes of his followers as a highly intellectual person; in other terms, what the leader accomplishes is to inspire awe, and admiration, to his followers.
For simplicity reasons let us take the example of the business world. In the business industry so as to land on a leadership position, you have 5 paths available to you:
1. Your own company:
You start your own company and by default you are the leader of your own endeavour.
2. You work hard and effective
You are working in a corporation, you work hard and effective (otherwise, you just suck) and through time you eventually get various promotions. That approach is based on objectivity and equality; the best and most worthy will receive the promotion.
Nevertheless, a few paragraphs above we stated that equality is non-existent (aka a misconception).
What does that imply? That regardless how good you are, your promotions and hard-work can be overshadowed by the next three categories:
a) The Outer-Circle, b) the inner-circle and c) birthright.
Regardless, which area you are examining (business, military, politics and so forth) eventually, you will come across these three aforementioned categories.
The outer-circle consists of people that have not (yet) been accepted into the higher echelons of the ruling classes; nevertheless, they are loyal to them and therefore they are given various leadership positions, even if they are not worth it – the key factor here is: loyalty.
The inner-circle consists of people that have been accepted into the higher echelons of the ruling classes as well as by the ones that have been born into these circles. These individuals are usually holding the top positions.
As mentioned above, the birthright group of people consists of individuals that were born into the ruling classes.
3. Outer – Circle:
If you ever happened to have at least some experience in the world of corporations you will have realized that many managers (usually located at the lower levels of management, and through the years they may make it to the middle-level management) are total buffoons.
What is more, if an employee actually comes up with an idea that could indeed help the entire corporation then, these managers either will steal the idea and present it as their own towards the higher echelons or they do everything in their power to block the idea and make the employee’s life miserable.
That is due to the fact that these managers have received the specific management position solely on the basis of buttlicking; and what matters is to keep face towards the higher echelons.
4. Inner – Circle:
If one way, or the other, you actually manage to enter the inner-circle then you will be put into a kind of fast-track promotion style procedure. This is the rationale behind the quick rise to power, that some people, accomplish. Usually, they are holding either top positions or key positions inside the organization.
What is more, in order to enter this circle someone will have to pass various tests of loyalty (the types of tests depend on the area that you are examining).
This category of individuals is literally born into all of it; usually they are the offspring of the guys that are running everything. Not much to say about it… even if they mess up things, they usually are protected by the other members of the higher echelons.
Fourth, Power Pyramids:
Our entire society is built around power pyramids that do overlap each other. For example, banks are supporting big corporations which in turn are supporting politicians, by closing various deals, and, in turn, the politicians are supporting the banks (i.e. bail-out); bottom line is that the tax-payers (aka the masses) will have to pay for it.
Moreover, as it becomes apparent the number of top positions available is small nevertheless, these are the positions with the greatest influence and power. Consequently, the few are able to control almost everything that will shape the masses’ (followers) future and that will affect the masses’ lives.
Five, Education and Media Perception:
As it can be derived from the aforesaid factors, on the one hand, elites receive the best available education while, on the other hand, elites are able to control information flow.
What does it tell you?
That elites are able to twist historical facts according to their desires (i.e. through donations for specific researches in which the outcome has been predefined) and to shape the desired reality of human understanding via the various Media channels.
What does this mean?
It means that society’s beliefs and ethical system has been shaped in such a way so as to solely serve the elites’ desires.
Nevertheless, the existing system is full of contradictions, theory with reality are usually in disagreement. For instance, they teach you in the universities that you should think outside-the-box (theory) yet, when you do that you most probably will receive answers like “I am in charge here, so you do as I say” (reality)!
Or, that we have democracy and equality… But you can easily observe that inequality prevails! For instance, in the court of law you see that there are people that are above the system, while others get dashed for the same “crime”.
A final factor that distinguishes the elites from the masses is patience.
But how can they do it?
They have the privilege of patience because the elites do not have to deal with everyday problems like bringing food on the table or paying off loans; and that because they have the needed financial resource available to them. Consequently, since they do not have to deal with existential problems they can take their time to form, and to implement, long term plans.
In other terms, with no everyday pressure on their shoulders they are now able to form (long term) superior strategies that will allow them to dominate over the masses.
Where does it leave you?
If you belong to the higher echelons of the leadership circles than you are all set (for obvious reasons).
If you are someone who would like to enter these circles there are a few things that you need to consider: your ethics – if they will ever be questioned, how much of yourself are you willing to “sell” and so forth.
If none of the above does apply to you than you could start your own company; supposing that you do have the money for it. However, and assuming that you will manage to become successful, there will come a time in which you will stand before a crossroad: to enter the circles of the power pyramids (consequently, you become one of them and adopt their ideas) or reject them (thus, you will be isolated – with all consequences that may follow).
If you are already working for a corporation you should at least have a general idea of what we talked about in the current article. What to do? The choice is yours to make: up, down or out…
If you are about to land, your first job, inside a company than, you better be ready once you enter the jungle…
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Published: October 31, 2016
Written For: Ancient Greece Reloaded
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