An article appeared in the Washington Post today titled;
“The tea party, Wikipedia and al-Qaeda: shared leadership lessons?"
The Post article speaks of reasons the Tea Party could have achieved their recent successes without formal leadership. It made me stop and think for a moment, “How could an organization without a leader win a string of victories”. The question poses an enigma.
Politics is similar to warfare. The success or failure of any political campaign is subject to the same criteria as a military campaign. Strategy and tactics, intelligence, terrain, the strength and weaknesses of your opponent are all important factors in the pursuit of military victory. The rules of war hold true for politics.
History teaches that it is possible to win many battles and still lose the war. A good overall strategy is necessary if a nation desires to achieve battlefield successes and defeat an opponent. What purpose would it serve to mount a large campaign without a plan to win the endgame?
Can the Tea Party actually be a “Ship without a rudder”, and win their war? According to the greatest military mind of all times, the answer is “No”.
Sun Tzu commanded armies around 600 BC. Successful battlefield commanders and business executives still study his writings today. Following his principles of warfare, many great leaders have vanquished their opponents. Ignoring them has led hundreds of ill-prepared commanders down the road to defeat and humiliation.
I suspect that somewhere there is a single intelligence behind current Tea Party Successes. Deception is another key to Sun Tzu’s formula for supremacy in warfare. He said, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
He expanded this philosophy by advising, “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent's fate.”
When I study the movements and successes of the Tea Party, I see evidence of intelligent direction and unified strategy. I suppose that we will have to wait a while longer to see if I am right or wrong. If the Tea Party really is a ship without a captain, it will sail aimlessly until it founders in some future storm or crashes onto some rocky shore.
If I am correct in my assumption, establishment politicians are dealing with a great field commander. Tea Party candidates may lose a battle here and there, but a brilliant general will win the war for them. I see evidence the tide is turning in that direction.
The Washington Post article follows.
"The tea party, Wikipedia and al-Qaeda: shared leadership lessons?"
Q: Has the recent success of the Tea Party come because of, or in spite of, the movement's lack of a formal leadership structure? Along with Wikipedia, open-source software and organizations like moveon.org, is this another example of the power of distributed leadership?
It's interesting that the two organizations that best exemplify "distributed leadership" (or at least get the most attention for making use of it) are the Tea Party and al-Qaeda. Both illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to leadership.
On the positive side, having no one leader at the top empowers many more people and fosters more creativity than traditionally hierarchical organizations can muster. This can result in a more diverse set of strategies ("laboratories of the states," if you will) and infuse more energy into a movement than would otherwise be the case. It can also make it more difficult for opponents, enemies or business competitors to mount a counter-strategy, since there may be no one strategy to counter.
At the same time, distributed leadership poses a host of challenges that must be overcome. "Subsidiaries," "factions" or "chapters" in different states or countries can work at cross-purposes with one another, create confusion about mission that can frustrate or drive away members and/or potential enlistees, duplicate efforts and suffer from lack of scale (in fundraising, for instance).
If you're Wikipedia and trying to provide free information to people, these liabilities are one thing and may not be fatal. It's quite another to be aspiring to revolutionize politics (Tea Party) or overthrow a secular, Western democratic model of governing (al-Qaeda). I like Wikipedia's chances much more.
BY PAUL R. PORTNEY
SEPTEMBER 21, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
My name is Patrick M McCormick and I have created this blog as a platform for my political views as well as those of select contributors.
I believe that American Politicians have lost sight of their goal: To uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of the people of the United States. They argue and bicker on the floor of their respective houses, positioning themselves for the next election, while they accomplish very little business for the citizens of this country.
Meanwhile our economy is sliding downward. Millions of our precious jobs have have been exported overseas. Our social safety net and other public services are being cut. Our middle class is rapidly disappearing and the numbers of citizens existing below the poverty line is increasing dramatically.
I plan to examine the causes of these terrible changes to our American way of life. Your comments will help us all arrive at some important conclusions.