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The Qualities of Leadership, According to “Crazy Horse”: Does the “Commish” Have ‘Em?

Jun 14

Of all human qualities leadership has to be one of the oldest and most critical. Think about it, when we were dragging our knuckles around and living in small groups to increase safety and survival, someone had to come forward to organize and maximize these efforts. Sometimes the odds, and human nature, would suggest that this person was well motivated and concerned about the welfare of others, and sometimes not. Whatever tactics and motivation were employed, this person became ensconced as a leader as his/her abilities more often than not lead to the fulfillment of the group’s common objectives or that his/her place as leader could not be contested. Moreover, these individuals seemed to recognize that while reasoning with the masses was preferable to the use of force, that violence had its’ advantages; it was quicker and in most cases more effective——especially when the leader’s goals were somewhat selfish in nature.

Strong leadership is most always a variable in the survival of not only societies and nations but also organizations within them (like the RCMP). I think it is accurate to say that all of us are born with, or develop, the characteristics to be leaders, however not all of us have the same potential to become a competent leader, only to lead to the best of our ability. That moment can come for any of us whether we want it or not. I think we can say that Rosa Parks didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to change the world today”. It is more likely, as history bears out, that she was pressed into service by necessity and she didn’t decline the “call”. It was her character that lead her to make that decision, and in that moment that she refused to give up her seat on the bus, and to give into and perpetuate the existing rules of segregation and racism in the US. I think it would be safe to say that Ms. Parks did not view herself as a leader, in the same sense that Dr. Martin Luther King was. She was just very determined at a critical moment to set an example for every oppressed person on the globe.

Ms. Parks also did something that seems to be lacking in our leaders of today (e.g. Mr. Paulson). She showed leadership at its’ fundamental best. She demonstrated that leadership is more about “how” we do it than “what” we say as leaders. (Does this contrast of “how” and “what” sound familiar?)

The likes of Ms. Parks should be an example for all who think of themselves as leaders (how do you match up Bobby-boy?) from the Prime Minister through the Commissioner of the RCMP to your section supervisor. Please remember this, if you have the opportunity to lead others: Anyone can take over, be elected, or be appointed to a position that leads others. And it would be easy for that person to assume the mantle of authority hiding behind someone else’s back, especially if there is a stated or implied threat if we don’t “play along” (Bill C-52?). It is much easier to play the role of leader when you carry a frightening “hammer”. It takes a person with genuine character to be a true leader; a person with the confidence and humility that is more powerful than fear.

Included in those little aphorisms that I often include at the end of an article you have likely read one or two from “Crazy Horse”, moreover you may recall that my trike is called “Crazy Horse”. He is a personal hero and role model of mine. He was a ferocious warrior, respected Chief, and mythical figure in Lakota Sioux culture. One of the values that defined him as a “human being”, and as a leader, was his compassion for those less fortunate than himself; he was concerned about the weak and the powerless. It was this quality above all others that drew others to him; like iron filings to a magnet. As the story is told, when he was a young adolescent hunter he would share the bounty of his hunting with those families that had no one to hunt for them; the elderly and the ill. He didn’t speak a word of this to anyone and soon the other young hunters were doing the same thing. (Sound like the style of your “esteemed leader” at NHQ?).

Don’t get the wrong idea, while it is true that we expect our leaders to act dynamically and heroically, this is only a small part of their skill set as exemplary leaders. Their leadership should go beyond the battlefield and permeate the routine of ordinary life. If we examine Crazy Horse’s brief time on this earth we will see that his acts of leadership range from quiet acts of compassion to those of battle that have become the “stuff of legend”. (Again I ask you, is this the way your “esteemed leader” is referred to?)

We must do our best to look at the “big picture” when it comes to Crazy Horse’s leadership style, and not limit it to those acts of heroism that are most often associated with victory and battle. He was also a leader in the day-to-day issues that he encountered in the context of “real life”.

Part of Crazy Horse’s appeal is the contrast between the warrior facet of his personality and his extreme humility. ( I continue to work on this in myself). He always viewed himself as nothing more than just another “human being”; just another member of the group, no better, no worse than any other. He saw his position as one of responsibility, not one of privilege. (Sound like Mr. Paulson and his Senior Executive?) He didn’t covet authority, special privilege, or more human comforts than any other member of the group. He lived his day-to-day life just like any other member of the society. The only place he set himself apart from others was on the battlefield. He was a courageous, steady, and fierce warrior in battle. He didn’t lead by belittling anyone. He didn’t command the finest horse or the tallest lodge. To the contrary, his herd of ponies was often the smallest as he was prone to giving mounts to those who were without.

Crazy Horse was innately balanced as a leader. He knew his own battle skills and was careful not to exceed them especially when it might put the safety and welfare of others at risk. Yet on the other hand, he instinctively knew that the same safety and welfare of his people often made it necessary to push himself and them beyond their limits on occasion.

With regard to his War Council (Senior Executive in your terms) he was particular. He knew each of them like the back of his own hand; he knew their strengths, weaknesses and skills or lack of same in both their capacities as warriors and politicians. He knew who he could count on for what. He recognized that to ask someone to perform beyond his capabilities was to court disaster; most importantly he recognized his own failings (when is the last time you heard a “white shirt do this?). In addition, he studied his enemies free from any bias, based solely upon their skills as warriors.

The quality that truly placed him in a league of his own much before his time was his appreciation of a litany of intangibles that he considered each of which to be an enemy. They didn’t shoot arrows, throw spears, or strike with tomahawks, but arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, loneliness, apathy, hunger, duplicity, etc. were considered to be allies of the enemy when within his warriors and his allies when within his opposition. As a prime example, he sensed that confusion, reticence, and uncertainty could be his enemy when within his warriors; so he made it his habit to set an example, he made it his habit to lead every charge and take “first blood”.

Due to his devotion to his duty, his humility, and self-effacing manner he drew a huge following. (Just like your esteemed leader, no?) The Lakota “human beings” respected him as both a politician and a military leader. He was sensitive to the needs of all the people whether they loved him or not. He applied the values that he learned from his Mother (and her family) to his daily life. As previously noted he was dedicated, persistent, and selfless in all that he did…..and he did it all with the humility of a monk!! He placed his needs and himself second to the same of those he lead. We should expect nothing less from ourselves when the opportunity to lead arises, or from the leaders we follow today. With your esteemed leader in mind what are your thoughts? Those of you who are retired, what are your thoughts? Has the RCMP ever seen the likes of a Crazy Horse?

Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych


From → Other

  1. saumik901029 permalink

    Unfortunately Mike, humility and selflessness does not get measured or tested in today’s promotional exams therefore I do not foresee the RCMP ever getting a leader with one tenth of Crazy Horse’s qualities. A sad but true reality with the system over the past twenty years unlike the old promotional system where at least we had a glimmer of hope that a quality person would find themselves in a leadership role. From my personal experiences, we had a lot more Crazy Horses twenty five years ago in supervisory roles than we do today. Good article Mike!

  2. Here’s someting I find interesting;

    Gag order to be imposed on new RCMP transparency office
    By Amy Minsky Global News

  3. Anonymous permalink

    …one of our leaders putting themselves second to those they lead???? Are you joking?!!! I’ve worked in this outfit for a long time and I have never seen it. Their motives are totally selfish. I mean, they get bonuses for taking AWAY That old saying “do not look down on a man unless you are helping him to get up” comes to mind. That is my motto but I do not see many in the force practising it. It’s shameful.


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