The 4 Answers Response Leaders Know Before Everyone Else?

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21 October 2008


"Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do."
- Virginia Woolf

Group think, institutional learning, etc. It has it up side, right? Put 10 big brains in the same room and tell them to figure out how to build a better widget ... and they probably will.

But what if that widget turns out to be a dud and costs the organization excessive amounts of time and money. Then who is responsible? The group? Or will a leader step up and take responsibility?


People and groups of people that avoid accepting responsibility and merely follow the group around them are often referred to as sheep. Oh, and with good reason.

Sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock yet they haul ass as soon as any risk is detected. For the flock to move, it usually is as a result of following the first sheep to actually start to change locations. Think about that. If a flock of sheep is standing near a cliff and one sheep stumbles down the embankment to their death, then the others will instinctively follow the movement of the first sheep down the same embankment. Nice.

Sheep are very food reward motivated too and they can be herded easily with a bucket of feed or with a staff or herding dog since controlling the urge and activity of one controls all of them.

Sheep have their place. But don't look for them on top of the food chain any time soon.


Last night Emily and I conversed about her school's 7th grade political activities. Apparently the school is holding mock elections and is encouraging the youth to select a candidate based on their belief system. The challenge of course is that a typical 12 year olds political belief system is not exactly refined enough yet to make a well informed decision on the best equipped candidate.

So they fall innocently into the role of sheep. Waiting for someone to make the first move that makes even a little bit of sense and then they follow. If someone or something spooks them into thinking a candidate is a scary figure, then they flee to the other side. And the teachers pat themselves on the back with delight that they have taught the kids how the political system works. And the kids grow up to be actual voters having learned that it is completely acceptable to know a little bit about the candidate, and then follow the popular kids to the candidate who is also the most popular.

In fairness, some kids seem to have a grasp of the big picture issues. They know that the economy is in trouble, but they don't know that the economy is a cyclical system; that government influences from years ago may have contributed to the negative environment now whereas government influences now may help create a positive economic that won't be felt until years from now. That makes placing blame or giving credit a little more difficult.

They may know that the war in Iraq is costly and unpleasant. But they may not fully understand the alternatives and consequences if our government were not engaged there.

It is likely that my daughter - if she were a legal voter this election cycle - would vote differently than me. And for the most part, I think it's great. She is learning to be an independent thinker and I submit to you that we need a lot more of that to go around.

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
- Bible; Matthew 5:5

That may be true....but who would want to live in a world run by sheep?

Are you raising your kids to be independent thinkers? Or are they expected to sing from the same family hymnal?


Dana said...

My son (also 12) has made it clear that if he were able to vote, his choice would not be the same as mine. I've asked him why he feels his candidate is better, and he has been able to tell me - in a 12 year old understanding of things.

This has actually been an opportunity for me, as a parent, to reinforce the notion of being an informed voter - no matter who you choose!

Michael M. said...

Dana, I am not surprised that Cam is an independent thinker too. Bravo to you (and him) Dana!

With one candidate expected to have nearly $700 million to spend and one capped at $84 million, weeding through the media crapola to find the real truth in which to be informed voters will be even harder this time too so good luck to us both.