Several people have commented on leadership especially in the responses to the item on Developing Structures at Amida. It is an obviously important topic so I am promoting it to a main post here. Is there such a thing as a Buddhist theory of leadership? I rather think that a large part of what Buddhist training actually consists of is
a form of leadership training. My sense is that Buddha did not so much set out to create a mass movement as to train a cadre of people capable of acting as leaders - a leaven in society. The word sangha originally meant something like council or parliament - a group of leaders. A good leader needs to overcome self, at least in some degree, because he or she must act "for the good of the many" not just for personal advantage. Such people need to be adaptable. The leader is the holder of the vision, but that does not necessarily mean creator of the vision. Vision is something discerned rather than made. It emerges. It is somebody's job to discern what is emerging and point it out. It is then a collective task to give it form in a way that is fertile for further emergence. Another function of the leader is to spot and cultivate leadership talent. Leadership does not just go on at the "top" or in the centre of an organisation. There are many centres. There is, however, also a need for co-ordination. All this makes personal demands. Being the leader in a new small organisation is not the same as being leader of an older more complex one. I am already experiencing transitions in my role in this respect. Time was when nothing happened around here unless I was centrally involved in it. Not any more. As things get more complex there is more reliance on checks and balances, but the exercise of personal initiative at all levels remains a crucial factor in organisational health. Buddhist training teaches people how to do this. It also taches us tolerance - a hard lesson sometimes. Both these elements - taking responsibility and making allowance for diversity and the bits one cannot reasonably control - are forms of "tough love" - tough on oneself as much as on others. There are times when a leader's failure to say, "It shall be thus" creates chaos and confusion. On the other hand, a leader is ill advised to make any such pronouncement without having listened carefully and got a fine sense of the balance of forces in play. To a very large degree the organisation makes itself, but leadership is an essential catalyst.