…Besides, the almost beseeching way the men looked at him was irritating. Sometimes they acted as if they would forget how to breathe if he or Gus wasn’t there to show them. They were all resourceful men–he knew that, if they didn’t–and yet at certain times they became like children. All his adult life, he had consented to lead, and yet occasionally, when the men seemed particularly dumbstruck, he wondered why he had done it.
He and Augustus had discussed the question of leadership many times.
“It ain’t complicated,” Augustus maintained. “Most men doubt their own abilities. You don’t. It’s no wonder they want to keep you around. It keeps them from having to worry about failure all the time.”
“They ain’t failures, most of them,” Call pointed out.”They can do perfectly well for themselves.”
Augustus chuckled. “You work too hard,” he said. “It puts most men to shame. They figure out they can’t keep up, and it’s just a step or two from that to feeling that they can’t do nothing much unless you’re around to get them started.”
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
With these few paragraphs, Larry McMurtry demonstrates more insight into leadership than scads of studies and tomes. There is a fascination with political leaders far disproportionate to their actual importance. Most of what importance they have is of the negative variety: they can and usually do mess things up. McMurtry dissects the psychology of the led, putting his finger on the human frailty behind the cult of leadership. Not bad for a cowboy novel.
Read typical history texts, newspapers and news-oriented websites and you’ll conclude that the only phenomena worthy of notice are the leaders’ personalities, bloviations, and machinations. Part of it is by design of leaders themselves, they’re always circulating their propaganda and versions of events. Part of it, as far as journalism goes, is ideology and temperament among the journalists. Most of them are statist to the core. Covering government and its leaders fits their view of the world and philosophical precepts. Besides, it’s easy. There are all those press releases and leaders makes themselves available to the media.