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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Leadership vs. Coercion and Bribery

"… you cannot lead strangers, you can only coerce or bribe them."

Karl Fisch posted a blog entry on this pondersome quote. I spent a great deal of my weekend thinking about this quote. After some research, I discovered that it was one of my favorite authors who penned it – Orson Scott Card in Ender in Exile.

In eleven words, its sums up everything that is wrong in education, from the methods that we take to motivate of our students to the methods politicians take to motivate us to reform. I believe Card’s point is not to encourage coercion or bribery. The quote implies that coercion and bribery are not leadership. The intent is to focus us on being more familiar with those we are trying to lead.

We do not have to have a personal relationship in order for us not to be considered strangers. To be effective as a leader we must demonstrate that we are familiar with the conditions that those we lead face, and we must make our thoughts and ideas familiar to those we lead. It is not people or their personal relationships that lead revolutions, it is their ideas that do.

Another quote comes to mind. “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The intrinsic value of an idea is mightier than the extrinsic value of reward or punishment. I have come to believe that coercion and bribery, which are the true nature of external accountability measures, cannot and will not lead to lasting change for this reason.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then what is the communication technology that we possess today (blogs, wikis, etc.) mightier than?