Good Friday. The tragedy at the climax of the gospels that none of the characters come out of looking good. The somber holiday that brings us face-to-face with the ugliest parts of our common humanity.
I have long cherished this holiday as an opportunity to reflect on my own individual sins and sorrows, the ways that my own behavior reflects Judas or Pilate or Peter. But this year, I find myself noticing the communal aspects of the story, the ways that our collective behavior reflects that of the chief priests or the soldiers or the crowd.
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Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination tonight, proclaiming as usual that he alone is the solution to America’s ills. For those who have been paying attention to his campaign (and who hasn’t?), that can be a lot to take in, even if we’ve known it would happen for months. How did we get here again?
Back in the early days of the Republican presidential primary, after the primaries had started but before it was all clearly decided, journalists struggled to make sense of what Donald Trump’s “consituency” consisted of. The strongest correlate they were able to find was how these voters responded to authority. Basically, voters with a psychological predisposition to authoritarianism — measured (perhaps surprisingly) by attitudes on children’s obedience to parents — were much more likely to express support for Trump in the primary, beating out other correlates like a high school education level.
I too struggled for months to understand the appeal of Trump when no one I knew, even back in conservative parts of Colorado, supported him. But reflecting recently, I’ve been surprised to discover that when it comes to authoritarianism, I personally share that same disposition. I seem to naturally want to follow a strong man who seems to have all of the answers. But I’ve also been blessed with a range of experiences with this sort of authority that has taught me several important lessons that I’d like to share.
Just to be clear, I can’t really imagine myself supporting Trump. I also probably wouldn’t qualify as an authoritarian based on the four standard questions about parenting: I’d have noticed the connection and modulated my answers accordingly. But I do seem to have followed some leaders who seemed to have all of the answers, like many have concluded Trump does.
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Previously in this leadership series: How Not to Delegate. My examples in this post are typically drawn from Christian leadership, but the message also applies more widely to other instances of collaborative leadership, group discussion, and public speaking.
Four months and seven years ago, I was a high school senior visiting colleges. Out of laziness, I had only applied to three, and was pretty set on attending Caltech. I came to Caltech’s Prefrosh Weekend mostly to solidify that decision and get to know the campus a bit better before I would arrive.
My host’s roommate found out that I was a Christian when I listed that I like to listen to Christian music on the interest sheet which they used to match us with hosts. He told me that he’d recently been attending a Friday night bible study and invited me to come along. Read more of this post
Since high school, I’ve found myself taking on volunteer leadership positions in pretty much everything I’ve been involved in. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on leadership from those experiences from time to time. While I’m calling this post “Part One”, I don’t have future parts planned yet, so it’s a bit of an ambitious title.
Volunteer leadership, like many things in life, tends to be a bit of a convex problem: There’s a sweet spot in the middle, and there are a lot of different failure modes around the edges. Organizations vary in terms of where exactly that sweet spot is, so I don’t want to focus on that side of the problem. Instead, in this series, I’ll focus on the failure modes, how not to lead. Being aware of what the edges are will help you stay near the sweet spot as a leader.
(By contrast, for instance, some organizations seem to find a lot of value in the edges, by approaching problems in an unusual fashion to generate something new. Some of them can even ride roughshod over the failure modes that I mention because it’s more compelling to live on that edge. If there’s a large amount of competition and/or novelty in your field, this might be the case.)
This lesson in particular has to do with the failure modes around delegation, allowing or assigning other people to do tasks. Read more of this post