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Notes on Authority

I'm listening to the video linked above in preparation to participate in a panel discussion at the Left Forum this coming weekend.


The first quality of leadership is the capacity to initiate, and it can be cultivated in individuals who take responsibility for their actions, have passion for their cause and who are committed to seeing it through.

Some individuals have a presence which flows from the fact that they personify the product or cause they are trying to "sell" to others. Integrity.

"Practical wisdom" (from Wikipedia) Phronesis (Ancient Greek: φρόνησις, phronēsis) is a Greek word for a type of wisdom or intelligence, specifically the virtue of practical thought, which is a common topic of discussion in philosophy. In Aristotelian ethics, for example in the Nicomachean Ethics, it is distinguished from other words for wisdom and intellectual virtues – such as episteme and techne. Because of its practical character, when it is not simply translated by words meaning wisdom or intelligence, it is often translated as "practical wisdom", and sometimes (more traditionally) as "prudence", from Latin prudentia.

Frank Furedi defines it as discretion. Leaders are defined by their willingness to make full use of their discretion.

Nobody disputes the value of leadership except anarchist protesters who object to any form of hierarchy. The paradox/conundrum of contemporary life is that most everyone recognizes the value and necessity of good leadership, and yet we organize our lives so as to make leadership impossible.

FF: "In particular, the way that life is organized in the Western world is to stigmatize and marginalize the capacity to make judgement calls."

My example: Judges whose discretion has been undermined and constrained by mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

"Businesses and public sector organizations and political institutions have become discretion-free zones."

So-called "best practices" are the ones that make it impossible for anyone in the organization to exercise leadership.

Judgment converts uncertainties and dilemmas into risks that are calculable.

A process-driven organization or society is inherently detrimental to leadership.

Embracing uncertainty turns challenges into opportunities. Liberty is the ultimate risk that a institutional process-driven, risk-management-obsessed culture seeks to minimize.

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