Many years ago I attended a leadership course called C.O.P.E. (Challenging Outdoor Physical Experience) which was an early, hard-core version of the same type of thing that members of the West Chester Chamber Alliance conduct through their Leadership 21 course. See the below video for testimonials by the Class of 2012 where Lakota Treasurer Jenny Logan attended. The goal of the endeavor was to force participants to realize that they could not achieve certain tasks alone—but needed to find ways to work together to achieve objectives. Among the tasks was the fall from a ladder, having to work to climb a tall wall with nothing but the people on your team as support, and having to move 15 people across a series of tree stumps using only two 2X4’s without anybody touching the ground. The exercise was designed to destroy the illusion that individuals can go it alone and must rely on others. There were some useful elements to the program, but conclusively what I learned was that as a natural leader I had to bend people to my will to use them to my effect—to get over a wall without tools—and that most everyone else had very little else to contribute to the problem solving efforts. I had to bend them to my will for their own good and the intentions of the task at hand. That is the heavy responsibility that leaders have—but the issue of why some people are leaders, and some not—and why everybody can’t be one is the topic of obsession revolving around the parameter of the Leadership 21 course and public education in general. Over the years I have rejected most of what the C.O.P.E. organizers implemented in their course and proven their theories inaccurate. Sadly, the organizers of Leadership 21 have not yet realized this error in leadership study—and are contaminating the many minds of the West Chester and Liberty Township communities with out-dated tripe.
Over the last 20 years I have rejected the things that such leadership courses tried to teach me understanding that the bottom-line to their message was a greater dependency on the social safety net of public services. In my adventures with C.O.P.E. there were many police and fire department organizations who took the exact same course and the message to them was that a social safety net had more power than any one individual. That conclusion of course has proven to be complete, unmitigated hogwash and it is incredibly disappointing to see that one of the wealthiest areas in the State of Ohio—if not the United States—has so little understanding about the nature of entrepreneurship than to adhere to this foolish idea of leadership in the 21st century as it was disseminated by some idiot in Geneva, Switzerland.
The exercises given in Leadership 21 of recognizing certain values in your co-workers—or team members is one to obviously pull the awareness of individuals away from themselves and onto others—to get to know their names, to see changes in their appearance, to pay attention to “others” as a valuable trait. But this has nothing to do with real leadership other than making people feel good about themselves in the presence of others. Leadership is not about making people feel good, or softening the human race’s desire for intense competition. Leadership is about decision-making ahead of a given problem and mathematically there are not many people capable or willing to stand at the cutting edge of a decision-making process to perform a leadership task—otherwise there would be more good leaders.
Business cannot breed leaders through such a class to believe that through collective collaboration and multiple viewpoints that a correct decision about anything can ever be reached. What they are teaching at such courses like Leadership 21 is to follow, not lead. The purpose of Leadership 21 is the same as the C.O.P.E. course I was involved in, and that is to teach that the new leader of the 21st century is “consensus,” and that everyone needed to let go, and surrender to it putting aside their individual needs. The end result, and falsehood of their premise is that following is more important than leading and that the business community needs to adopt these measures to better serve the collective hive of society through public enterprise. Where the emphasis of C.O.P.E. was to ultimately develop firefighters and police officers, Leadership 21 is also concerned with public education and law enforcement. It is ultimately those services which become the pace setters of modern society—according to them—and that is just wrong.
Leadership 21 has an intention of teaching their yearly class of students to migrate out into the community to spread the message of what they learned—and the crux of that consensus always points to more taxation, more legislation, and an expansion of government in general. The purpose of the Leadership 21 alums is to convince all resistance to such expansion to step aside and bend to the will of consensus because it is the collective sum of their merry band of followers who set the course for which society must obey. And this is the primary philosophy taught in public schools—and the reason that Jenni Logan as Treasurer at Lakota was accepted as opposed to another applicant. But another alumni of Leadership 21 is the former superintendent of Lakota Ron Spurlock. The leaders of the 21st century are everyone, not just the few exceptional people with skill and aptitude. In the world of the Leadership 21 types, everyone has a chance to be a leader through collaboration masking their personal incompetency of individual judgment. They intend to end the top down model of a solitary innovator, and entrepreneur who goes it alone and drives GDP with their cutting edge leadership—they hope to attach to such people a host of parasites who can hold such a person up if only they could convince them to fall into the arms of the community from atop a tall ladder.
But leaders are supposed to avoid falling altogether, and if they do their jobs right, there should never be any arms to fall into. They should never have the need. The world of the real leader is out on the edge of perception well in front of the rest of society who watches like timid animals about to step out of a hole where a snake is feared to be perched. A real leader already has gotten by any danger and found the way forward—and followers tow behind as they should—and they need to keep their mouths shut so that the leader can think about what is yet ahead and not be encumbered by some encounter group trying to build the self-esteem of a weak-kneed group.
The product of Leadership 21 is a loss of intellect and aptitude because both have to be surrendered to participate fully. When Jenni talks about letting go, this is part of what’s lost—and for some there is relief in losing that responsibility. It is much easier to allow a herd to make decisions than to take full responsibility on an individual basis. What starts with a few people at Camp Joy becomes a community of followers willing to take the leadership of public service as their guiding light. And public officials such as school administrators, police, and many others get to use the shield of the productive to protect them from scrutiny because the Chamber Alliance has arranged for a scam to take place where the productive freely give their efforts to the incompetent. Awards are given and dinners celebrate the exchange, but the general objective was and always will be the theft of value from job creators to shield the failed philosophy of those who wish to advance government and the money it consumes. Leadership 21 is just a fancy way to say that the desire of a 21st century world is that everyone has the opportunity to be a leader—but first the real leaders of society must be convinced to give up their claim to such a title. Then they must accept the help of their fellow community participants with the reduced expectations of competency and replace those expectations with a trust in the team building exercises that Leadership 21 is designed to establish with physical reliance as opposed to intellectual aptitude. Thus the message of Leadership 21 is to surrender thought to physical trust and understand that value judgments are relative to individual position which is subservient to the collective will of consensus. And it is for that reason that I reject the entire premise and believe it to be one of the greatest threats disguised behind good-will that we have before us.
Rich Hoffman www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com