Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Following the Leader (Tuesday LINKS)

I recall two distinct stages in my pre-school to elementary school education.  The early stage placed emphasis on the collective.  We were instructed how to get in lines (more importantly, how to stay in lines), how to share, how to treat one another, and the idea that our classmates had "feelings" that could be hurt.  Grades were hardly a consideration and the greatest accomplishment of the day was snack, a collective happy time, followed by nap, imposed collective silence.

As we became older, the individual became king.  Raise your hand when you want to speak.  Everyone will be watching you.  Study hard to earn good grades, a reward that is valuable to no one other than you (despite the joy those grades may bring your parents).  "You are a special snowflake that will never be replicated."  And eventually -- Be a leader.  Team leader.  Group leader.  Table leader.  Whatever we did, one of my peers was the leader of what we were to accomplish.  The collective was presumed and the individual was prime.

I don't ever remember my educational experiencing redirecting from that focus.  Leadership, individuality, solitary achievement.  Admittedly, I did not play sports in high school, which is presumably "Appendix A" to the K-12 educational experience, but I don't know how much that has changed those that participated, with the added consideration that each sport takes a different view of the individual over the collective.

So why am I going through a philosophically shallow review of my early education?  I wonder if my generation has been ruined for followers.  As a culture, the leader is, quite literally, king.  I've seen t-shirts that say "Don't Follow.  Lead." or "Lead or Get Out of the Way" (the closest we get to acknowledging the role of a follower). 

But this world desperately needs followers, particularly as the number of leaders dilutes the points to be led.  What's odd is that in Howard County, the leaders most effective at inspiring and mobilizing followers are those that are most often maligned by others.  I don't need to list them here, but as a thought experiment, think to yourself "If I needed 100 people to join my cause and provide a 'show of force' who would I call?"  It is unlikely that your first thoughts went to anyone in our County government, but that's not a knock on them.  By my anecdotal experience, in order to inspire followers, you must be willing to push extremes.  This Council and County Executive have promoted collaboration, which is good policy, but tepid leadership.  I would also proffer that we can't call anything a leader does "leadership" just to lionize their actions.  Rather, they are being effective actors towards accomplishing objectives. 

What's the danger in the extinction of followers?  Why not promote collaboration over leadership?  Unions would seem to be a good example here.  Regardless of your views on the current utility of unions, it would seem incontestable that the organized actions of workers have been the most effective means of promoting the middle class for the past century.  As less and less of our workforce participates (i.e., follows) labor leaders, that voice is significantly diminished. 

Same goes for political parties.  In Howard County, the proportion of Republican residents is much larger than the proportion of Republican representatives.  Greg Fox is a very good council-man, but he does not seem interested in being the leader of the Republican party in terms of mobilization or organized goals.  The "people" exist without executing their voice.

To me, the immediate concern is Columbia.  I think of those that have the most to gain from Columbia's Downtown and the tremendous voice they have in the process.  I don't see a counter-weight.  I trust our elected officials to mind the store and think they are doing a fantastic job on that score, but I also know they favor collaboration over confrontation.  Who are they compromising with?  We have so many non-partisan or single issue organizations that seem "safe" for participation, but none that I would see stepping into the breach, with those 100 people behind them, to say "This is not right" or at least not in a way anyone would listen.

"Well, what has you so worried?  Did someone do something wrong?"  No.  And I have no reason to believe anyone will.  But I feel like we're driving without our seat-belt. 


Wegman's officials have said that past openings have involved lounge chairs and sleeping bags.  I truly hope that my fellow HoCo'ers have the dignity and self-respect to decline that opportunity next weekend.  We may need some counselors on deck for those folks that walk inside and find out that the carrots still taste like carrots and the bananas still go bad by day five.

It is neat to live in a place where the Superintendent can say she wants to provide a "world-class education" and it is not just hyperbole.

I saw this 5-alarm fire from my office at work.  Anytime you see this type of fire, you can't help but be thankful for the men and women that confront these terrifying blazes on a daily basis.  The smoke cloud probably extended about 15 blocks north from the warehouse.  I'm glad no one was hurt.

Baltimore has fallen out of the FBI's Top 5 Murder capitals, with a 12% drop in 2011, presenting the lowest murder rate per capita since the late 1980's.  It may be important to note that this is while Baltimore's population continues to decline; however, at a rate much less severe than 12%.

The Baltimore City bottle tax has preliminary approval, which is huge for Mayor SRB's efforts to direct more funds to City schools from inside the city limits.

On a more personal note, Jane and I will be looking to "cut the cable" over the next month.  I bought a Roku HD box last night and am excited about the new venture of internet TV.  We're going to have both Roku and Cable for the first few weeks to make sure we aren't ignoring some cable-provided sustenance, but then I'm turning in my Verizon boxes for good (or at least until I change my mind).  For reasons Jane and I have never figured out, we did not need to sign a contract for cable, so we can close out without penalty.  It has been great for negotiating HBO, but it is time to move on.  You can expect an update on how this adventure works out.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Duane has a very interesting post about trees as an indication of per capita income of a community. 

That's all for today.  Have a fantastic Tuesday doing what you love!