The Mystical Essence of Leadership and Power

Leadership has innumerable definitions, qualities, and permutations. Some are demagogic or authoritarian. Others are more servant and equalitarian oriented.

Power is the underlying authority that enables leaders to lead. That power may be anointed by birth or by force and brute strength. On the other end, it may be elected or delegated by various means like majority or consensus, etc.

These concepts are empirically complex and don’t illuminate the true essence of Leadership and Power. Therefore, I believe it’s best explained metaphorically or paradoxically.

As a prelude to the metaphor, one needs to realize that leadership and power is temporal. At the very least of course, is that we all die and power will not go with you to the other side.

The most salient metaphor to me is the breath. It consists of two parts: the inhale (intake of energy, expansion of chest and lungs, power) and the exhale (the surrendering, letting go, contraction of chest and lungs). One cannot be sustained without the other.

This, obviously, is physical. Yet it is an apt metaphor for the essentialness of humble leadership and power. I postulate that demagogues cannot let go, but servant leaders understand the exhale and are freer to do more selfless service.

Another paradox or corollary to the above is freedom versus addiction, or non-attachment versus attachment. The more a leader is attached to the intoxication of power or control the less likely good things will happen. Over attachment means exploitation, sustaining one’s power at all costs harming others along the way.

Non-attachment realizes the compelling truth of the exhaling breath. The practice of surrendering leads one to be able to empower others, to be successful in a non-exploitative way and success is measured by raising up and letting go so many may thrive and grow. One needs to have inner strength to be vulnerable and not wither after setbacks along the way.

These attributes of inclusive leadership are difficult to master. We do not teach this in schools today or at home in many cases. However, the world is at a precarious place where technology and wisdom are out of balance. We have atomic bombs, we have a standard of living but the earth is choking on the methods employed in getting us there. The generations to come deserve to have an opportunity for their own quality of life.

2 thoughts on “The Mystical Essence of Leadership and Power

  1. Thank you Jeff, I share your concerns for the compass that appears to be in use. ….and where it is guiding our children’s children. I thank you also for the retreats you took us on with early Piñon…
    When we hiked before breakfast and rode horses to get new perspectives.

    • Thank you Marcia. I agree those were good times. The retreats in the wilderness were a way to relax the mind, experience the glory of nature as the prelude to openness on our retreats. Great memories!

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