Friday, April 27, 2012

Are Writers Leaders? - Eleanor Shepherd

Recently, I read somewhere, on the web and I cannot remember where, that as writers we are leaders.  I have to admit that I do not like that idea.  I believe and hope that what I write will be of benefit to others, as it is to me, but I do not like to think that by writing I am setting myself up as a leader.  I am not sure if the problem is in my understanding of what a leader is or what a writer is. 
            I have been churning these ideas around in my head and trying to understand if as a writer I do have some responsibility to be a leader, much as I feel that puts pressure on me for excellence. 
            Then a couple of days ago, I came across a post linked to one of my online writing groups that gave some specific characteristics of a great leader and I found that they are also relevant to what it means to be a writer.  The post is by Catarina Alexon, an international businesswoman and writer.  Here are some of her characteristics of a great leader:
·      A strong set of values and openness, trust and true respect for others. 
I believe a writer must have these characteristics.  If we do not have a strong set of values, our writing is weak and does not provide any intellectual meat for people to chew on.  Without openness, trust and respect we will not listen to others and thereby test our ideas against their experience.  When we fail to do that we risk writing irrelevant prattle that is poor stewardship of the gift that has been entrusted to us.
·      Genuine humility and not afraid to show vulnerability. 
In my opinion, this is what makes our writing credible and allows others to feel the common bond of our humanity.  I think that genuine humility can be quite elusive for us, as it is easy for us to take a humble pose, without really being honest about our doubts, fears and misgivings.  I think this is particularly true for Christian writers.  We sometimes feel that by admitting that we do not have it all together we are suggesting that in some way the Lord we follow has failed us.  In our saner moments, we become aware of the absurdity of such thinking that somehow equates our inadequacies with divine activity.  We also walk a tightrope between being vulnerable and exposing unresolved inner conflicts that are better resolved privately.  Transparency becomes exhibitionism when it focuses on the writer rather than the principles articulated. 
·      Regularly reflect and have an unquenchable thirst for learning.
If as writers, this is not a part of our lives, the well will soon dry up and we will have nothing of consequence to say.  Probably one of the things I love most about reading and writing is to be able to explore ideas and try to fit them into my constantly growing and changing worldview.  These are part of the integration of my personality in all areas, physically, emotional and spiritual.  For me, this is one of the greatest gifts of writing.

            I still am not sure if writers are leaders.  I understand a little more clearly that what we do as writers is try to articulate some of the process that takes place, as we become more fully integrated human beings.  Some do this through the exploration of plots and characters in fiction.  Others do it through the unique expressions of language provided by poetry.  I prefer to work through my thoughts using the ideas verbalized as non-fiction.  Some highly gifted writers use several different formats.  Does that make us leaders?  Perhaps it does in the sense that we put forward thoughts that can stir others to reflection and to action.             
 Link to Catarina Alexon’s post:
Winner of 2009
Award of Merit
Human Interest Article
Winner of 2011
Word Guild Award
Christian Leadership


Peter Black said...

Eleanor, you flesh out wonderful insights on Catarina Alexon's points (I followed the link).
Thank you.
As I read, I found myself relating those points to Jesus' life and leadership among His disciples.
I'm sure they reflect His approach.

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

I think we are leaders, because we are willing to share our thoughts so that others can learn. I agree that we share our beliefs in different genres and forms.

Thank you for sharing.

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