Some say you can lead the AL to a martini, but you can’t make her drink. That, however, is false. You can always make her drink, but you can’t lead her to the martini. That’s because the Annoyed Librarian cannot be lead. Also, it’s the AL and a martini. They’ll get together somehow.
Some librarians want to lead us all, or maybe they just want to be lead. They’re the ones who get all excited about marketing and management. The ones who give us motivational talks about how wonderful the world would be if we all just bowed down to their dubious genius. The ones who watch talks like this one (found via this blog , which is so HOT this week!). It’s 17 minutes of someone called Seth Godin "on the tribes we lead," and is offered, I suppose, for our inspiration. The video is 17 minutes, but I read the accompanying transcript in about 3, so you might consider doing that if you can tolerate it. However, I have sacrificed myself so you don’t have to.
And yes, you got that right, I said "someone called Seth Godin," because I’d never heard of him before. After reading this presentation, his brief bio, and his Wikipedia entry, I’ll never bother to hear from him again. He’s some sort of marketing guru, and apparently a darn popular and sought after one if you believe his bio. This merely confirms why I don’t pay attention to this stuff.
Sure, there are librarians who claim I’m not doing my job and keeping up if I don’t read marketing and management and other business-related books, but those people are of course mistaken. I don’t read them because most of them are garbage. I’ve looked at some popular ones. I’ve browsed the business section of my neighborhood library used book sale. I’ve tried, really. And what have I found? Self-help books, for the most part. Most self-help books seem to be targeted at the feeble-minded and weak-willed. Most business self-help books are targeted at the feeble-minded and weak-willed who want to make a lot of money. I could be wrong about this, but I have a feeling all the truly successful and powerful business leaders out there aren’t very motivated or impressed by this junk. They don’t need inspiration, they have talent. The business self-help books are for the losers who want to be inspired. If they were winners, they wouldn’t need to be inspired. They’d be out winning.
Godin’s current interest, apparently, is (are) "tribe(s)," and we’re supposed to find that inspiring. A "tribe" is a group of people who want some one to lead them and make them feel like they’re a part of something big, you know, like the Nazis. This might sound extreme, but Godin isn’t too particular about what the tribe does, as long as they have fun doing it. On his bio, he has a quote from Business Week about himself that he must like: "he’s as focused on spreading ideas as he is on the ideas themselves." That sounds about right. It’s probably because there’s not much here in the way of ideas.
The idea of leadership is fuzzy. "The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them. That most movements, most leadership that we’re doing is about finding a group that’s disconnected but already has a yearning. Not persuading people to want something they don’t have yet." Did the Beatles really "lead" teenagers? And shouldn’t we wonder what such groups have yearnings to do?
The talk is a bit disconnected, but later we get the "three questions." "So three questions I’d offer you. The first one is, who exactly are you upsetting? Because if you’re not upsetting anyone, you’re not changing the status quo. The second question is, who are you connecting? Because for a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for. The connections that are being made, one to the other. And the third one is, who are you leading? Because focusing on that part of it, not the mechanics of what you’re building, but the who, and the leading part is where change comes." Very challenging questions, indeed, and they beg as many questions as they ask. So your goal should be to upset people? How about if you just shout in their faces? That’s upsetting. And is the status quo always bad? Godin assumes it is, but there’s no real proof of that. Most people tend to like most things most of the time, and if they don’t then they just take a lot of drugs or kill themselves and we don’t have to worry about them. As for who’s being connected, I don’t really care as long as they’re not being connected to me.
It’s the third question that most strikes the demagogic chord, as well as just being vapid. Who are you leading? Are you leading anyone? Because you’re sure as hell not leading me. And notice that it doesn’t matter what any of these people in the audience are trying to "build"; it only important that they go out and "lead" and bring "change." Yuck!
The final bit is just creepy. I’ll quote it in full:
"You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is. [He no doubt senses they need his permission, because he’s their leader and they’re sheep.] They’re waiting, we’re waiting for you to show us where to go next. So here is what leaders have in common. The first thing is, they challenge the status quo. They challenge what’s currently there. The second thing is, they build a culture. A secret language, a seven second handshake. A way of knowing that you’re in or out. They have curiosity. Curiosity about people in the tribe. Curiosity about outsiders. They’re asking questions. They connect people to one another. Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. They want to be missed the day they don’t show up. They want to be missed when they’re gone. And tribe leaders can do that. It’s fascinating because all tribe leaders have charisma. But you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that’s where charisma comes from, from the leading. Finally, they commit. They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They commit to the people who are there."
This guy is describing a population of thoughtless morons with meaningless lives who want to join a cult. "Waiting for you to show us where to go next"? Um, no, we’re not waiting, at least not those of us with a healthy skepticism and the capacity for critical thought. Challenging the status quo? Pol Pot challenged the status quo. Oh, and they "build a culture" with a "secret language" and handshake, a "way of knowing that you’re in or out." Are these divisive "leaders" really anyone you’d want to be around? Secret handshakes and ways to make sure you know who’s a part of us and who’s a part of them? It either sounds like a club from the Little Rascals or some sort of evil cabal. Isn’t this what those Priory of Sion people are supposed to have? And mean girls forming cliques in grade school?
Then comes the Jim Jones part, so prepare to drink your kool-aid. They connect people, because what people want more than anything is to be missed. They don’t want freedom or security or wealth or fame or a great pair of shoes or a fast car. They just want to be missed! It’s so sweet, and also so pathetic. You, too, can be a leader by telling your coworker who blew off work the day before, "hey, we missed you." That is, if you have "charisma." Oh, and "commitment." Commit to the tribe! Commit to the cause! Bow down before your leader! Join hands and chant your mantra! If we all join hands, then we’ll know who we’re missing when they’re gone! And we can hunt them down and assimilate them! There is no "I" in team!
I’m begging you all, please don’t be inspired by this stuff, and if you are, don’t try to lead me. You see, I’m not looking for a charismatic leader to come along and make me feel like I’m a part of the secret in-group. On the contrary, I’m highly suspicious of such charismatic leaders, and in general think their shenanigans should be exposed. So, aspiring "leaders," please keep your charisma and your secret handshakes to yourself.
Don’t lead, because the AL definitely won’t follow, and don’t follow, because I sure won’t lead. And if you’re a library demagogue who wants me to join your cabal, don’t even walk beside me, because I don’t want to be your friend.