Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying “There goes my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” Does he have it right? Can we lead from behind? Many, perhaps even most, believe that leaders, elected and otherwise, should be out-in-front showing us, the unwashed plebian masses the road to enlightenment and redemption.
In the 1970’s film “The Poseidon Adventure,” a decaying cruise ship taking its final voyage before being sent to the scrapyards is hit by a rogue wave and capsized. As the surviving passengers scramble to find their way to the bottom of the boat (which is now the top), they cleave into two separate groups – one led by a cop portrayed by Ernest Borgnine and the other led by a Reverend in the form of Gene Hackman. Along the way, there is much drama, explosion, and crisis. But the patterns of leadership are clearly cut.
At one critical juncture, the aging Hollywood actress Shelly Winters, as Belle Rosen a one-time Olympian, decides to dive in and swim through the oily and jagged debris inside the sinking ship to rescue another member of their group. Her husband Manny knew that she would not likely survive the attempt and begged her not.
Each showed leadership: one passively, others by getting out front and taking charge, and finally, another through extreme personal sacrifice. So which has a lock on the best way to lead? Is it possible that they are they all right? Can someone be Gandhi in one circumstance and then drag his fellow passengers through a fiery-watery abyss the next?
Do “the people” lead the leaders or do the leaders lead the people? Perhaps, it is the intention of the leader and the need of the people that should lead the way.