29 May 2015

How important is authority?

This is the thirtieth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.
Rebels are men and women of initiative.  They are bold.  They are by definition people who object to the state of affairs and moreover are ready to correct things even if it costs them.  Such people are rare.  It is easier, more convenient and even more profitable in certain cases to go with the flow, to adapt, to grin and bear.  
Think of someone who has initiative and courage and you are thinking about a person who is endowed with some of the most important traits a leader ought to have.  Put a bunch of such guys together and there’s a small problem: who is going to lead?  
Rebels have energy. They have self-belief.  They are confident. They will venture forth whether most others will tarry.  They are by nature born to lead.  The problem is that when you work in a group too many leaders can lead to confusion and make decision-making difficult.  
Authority is important when we talk of a group that fights against serious odds.  Someone has to take charge.  Someone has to win the respect of the followers.  What if more than one person believes he or she is best equipped to lead the group?  He or she might honestly feel that anyone else taking charge would be a weaker option and give the enemy an unnecessary advantage.  
The way out is not easy.  It requires the would-be leader to realize that one of the most important but at the same time mostly neglected qualities of a leader is humility.  Quibbling about who should be in charge is a distraction that rebels can do without.  The wise (and ultimately most effective) leader will not get involved in such quarrels.  He or should would, instead, do what is necessary and let the leadership come if it will.  If it does not, he or she won’t lose any sleep over the matter.  
The history of rebels and rebellion will show that when the moment arrives, the right man or woman for that particular moment or task will rise to the occasion.  They rise because they are ready, equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, and most importantly are recognized by one and all as the right person for the job.  
Authority is important. Leaderless rebellions are easily put down.   Whether or not one is a leader is not something that the true leader will spend too much time thinking about.  He or she would focus on the project, the needs of the collective, how best he or she can contribute.  He or she would never ever worry about stature within the organization.  Labels will not matter.  Positions will not matter.  The act, as they say, is all; the reputation does not count.  Remembrance, appreciation, reward and honor are things that come later.  Rebels don’t have the luxury to dwell on such things.  
Other articles in this series