Updated: May 10, 2021
We have all seen a lack of confidence in a leader at some point, perhaps even in ourselves. I thought I might give a few ideas as to how to invite the dependence of those that we lead.
The paradox about teaching someone to lead, and it’s quiet frustrating, it’s impossible to tell you how to be alpha! I cannot tell you, no more than somebody can teach you to take the lead in the dance. Because when you are being taught, you’re the dependent. To be a leader you must somehow find your confidence! You must step into this alpha role.
There are lots of things in our lives like this such as public speaking. I can attempt to teach you all the technical aspects, but you have to get up and speak in front of people to do it. What I have done here is simply give you some thoughts and ideas, some of the ways of massaging ourselves into that dance defined by those alpha instincts, and it’s really a dance of emotions.
1. If you perceive those you are leading as in need of you, and you present yourself as the answer whether that feels appropriate to the situation or not.
We are so afraid of this, but there is no other way to take the alpha position. The very essence of alpha is to say, “I am your answer, follow me!” When you sense a need we can answer “I will take care of you”, “you can trust in me”, “you can lean on me”, “I will tell you what to do.” This is an outright invitation to depend, and we mustn’t be afraid of it.
In our society today it feels very wrong to depend on others, we have been trained to resist this dependence. We even push our children into self sufficiency from those very early years. What we now have is a society that is defensive, everyone is thinking only about themselves. Now the pastor can no longer lead the church, the doctor can not longer treat the sick, the police can no longer keep the peace, the government can no longer make laws that people will follow. This is not true independence, this is resistance to dependence.
However it is only when our attachment needs are met, when we can be at rest in dependence that we are moved to an independence that is also considerate of others. We can present ourselves as the answer, knowing those we lead need a person to depend upon, even if they are resisting it.
2. Part of the alpha is to downplay our own needs and fears.
I remember my very first experience facilitating parenting workshops. I was trembling in my shoes. I became aware that my education had not prepared me at all to deal with the world of suffering. Parenting is far more complex than I could have been equipped for.
But I knew better than to open the door and say to the other parents, this is my very first workshop, I am very nervous. Do you mind if I keep my textbooks open? I had to walk into that school library, and with every inch of bluff I could muster, say “you’ve come to the right place. I will take care of you.” And I’m spent all the years since trying to make it true.
You start somewhere and you pedal like crazy until it’s no longer a bluff. But if you show your fears, it’s over! No client, no student, no child can depend upon a therapist, a teacher, a parent who does not present themselves as the answer.
3. Discerning the dependents true needs, not their demands, their needs.
We are in charge of sensing what others need, and then answering them. The true needs are to do with the attachment needs. It’s about a sense of belonging, of love, of significance, of mattering, of proximity. These are the true needs, and we are the answer. Each of these ways of attachment requires ourselves to venture into that place of connection even if we did not receive the invitation when we needed it. We do this so as to offer this invitation to those we are leading. This is the inner work we must do.
4. Trumping the dependents pursuit of proximity.
We are all fundamentally insecure. I can pursue proximity with my wife, I can pursue proximity a with my friends. But I cannot make them want to be with me. not in the moment. I cannot secure the invitation for tomorrow either. Ultimately this is out of our control, we have to trust in the provider.
That’s why it’s so important that we convey to those who depend on us, that indeed the invitation to exist in our presence exists and it’s given without conditions. Our confidence must be in the leader and not the pursuit.
5. Arranging scenarios where other must depend upon us.
If you really want to massage the dance, get into a situation where there’s nothing left but for others whom you lead but to depend upon you. For company, for food.
Camping is one great way to get away from technology and connect with those we love. As a family we try and get away several times over summer, and explore the nature around us.
Sometimes when my wife goes on a trip without the rest of us, perhaps to a conference, our children are even more dependent just on myself to provide. I notice the difference in their receptivity to been led.
6. Donning the roles of comforter, compass point, provider and nurturer.
I recently walked with a friend who lost her husband a few years ago. She said after he died, she was lost. She didn’t eat, didn’t want to do anything. She had to force herself to get up and out of the house each day. She had no direction, no reason to live. Now a good portion of this experience was grief, but there was something else missing, a compass point to help orient her.
Disorientation is absolutely intolerable to the human brain. Attachment then creates a compass point out of the person whom leads us. This is natures design.
In one of the master teacher movies Mr. Holland’s Opus. There is a line in there, as the head teacher confronts Mr. Holland, who was frustrated in his work and says to him, “you must become the compass point of your students”. To become the compass point, means that we enter the dance of attachment with those we lead. Then they look to us for orientation, then they look to us for guidance and direction.
7. Taking charge of the decisions and circumstances regarding those we lead.
There are appropriate situations that a leader needs to take charge. This is absolutely part of our alpha responsibility. Say for a child, a parent would decide what types of food are provided. If there are dangers or situations beyond the capacity of those we lead, we make decision as to providing safety.
Taking charge is however not about coercing others to do our bidding. Compliance and obedience are not our goal. We take charge to give others freedom to emerge, we make space for those we lead to make choices, to solve problems and to develop their own will. This is often messy and takes a lot more time. Leaders take charge by allowing for this.
8. Conveying to the follower that they are not too much to handle, regardless of how we feel.
As soon as we say, “I don’t know what to do with you”. As soon as we say “you’re too much to handle”, we have completely lost our alpha position. We have just given our alpha to those we lead.
9. Being in the know with regards to the dependent, and not giving the lead away by asking too many questions, especially around issues of nurturance.
In Europe, there are still traditional restaurants that serve patrons without providing a menu. The traditional way of serving is a chef would decide what you would eat. They would make up a special meal for you, often a different meal each day using what was in season. You would not know what you were getting. You would be served and you would love it, and you did.
It’s much better that we look, we scan, we read those we lead. Then we’re in the know, we know what is needed and we can invite dependence. As soon as we ask a question were out of the alpha mode. It’s totally okay to ask preference to allow choice. It is great to ask how they might solve a problem. But we don’t ask choices in regards to nurturance.
10. Then finally concealing one’s impotence by inviting the inevitable.
There’s an alpha trick, if you really find your alpha instincts this will feel natural to you. When you’re up against those things that you obviously have no control over, like the weather, you decide to invite it.
Perhaps you say when it rains, “it needed to rain today.”
We are up against all sorts of things that we cannot control. Maybe when we share our ideas of what we are doing next, we get some resistance. Perhaps some alarm from an adult who disagrees, or for a child they may give us a tantrum. So, the alpha instincts are simply, if you can’t avoid it you steer into the skid. We take the initiative.
“I’m going to tell you what needs to happen today and you’re not going to like it, so let’s just get on with it.”
If the child runs to the room, slams the door and says “I hate you. I want a new mother!” You say “well looks like you need a little bit of time away from me,” and you give permission for what it is that you cannot control. In this way you maintain your alpha posture.
I like to use humor to invite the screwed up facial expressions, or defensive behavior. We all need to show our defenses from time to time. It is how we keep a hold of our own self.
When you have an alpha adult in your class who has to has to have the last word. Then when it is time you say, “okay now Cynthia’s it’s time for your concluding response.” You just invited what was inevitable. And who is in charge? You are.
Hopefully you can see what it’s like.
We have been blinded by our values of egalitarian relating. We have been confused by our concern about outcome. Yes, the separateness and independence in egalitarian relating are wonderful, but those are the fruit of the process.
The process is hierarchical. We don’t start in kindergarten with round tables, like in the times of King Author. We don’t have the children practice egalitarian values and relating, thinking that if the more they practice the more it would happen. No, it is the time of hierarchical relationships in which they lean and depended upon, and be taken care of. So, by the time a child grows into their young adulthood, they have in them this instinct to treat others as separate and equal beings.
This comes from a fruitful attachment, from a hierarchical relationship not practicing egalitarian values.