Of Leaders and Projections

Group united by shared object of attention

Article 26 Of Leaders and Projections

“So what does all this have to do with the key moments of heightened awareness and intensity, be they clutch plays in a championship game, or bardo moments of intense brilliance, let alone leaders and followers or ‘group dynamics in the context of focus?’ Stay tuned….” (from Focus in Space article)

Projections are qualities we perceive in or project onto others. We are walking down a dark alley late at night; the wind is forceful, tugging at our garments and eliciting moans which echo in mournful, discomfiting tones which heighten our sense of impending doom, either from a lurking cut throat or ill-intentioned ghosts haunting this zone of prior crimes including rapes and murders.

Is this entirely imagination? Or are we picking up ‘echoes in eternity’ from prior dark deeds, so-called ‘blood on the walls?’ One never knows; probably some combination of the two.

Similarly, we project all sorts of things onto leaders. Leaving aside that each person has a unique take on any given quality perceived – from plant, animal, person, room or landscape – there is always a blending of that which a leader is projecting out themselves – are they charismatic, retiring, confident, dithering, intelligent, scheming, well-groomed, shabby etc. – and how we in turn perceive them based on our own tendencies, priorities, prejudices (or brainwashing) and preconceptions.

Now our basic makeup is to face forward and focus on something. We don’t have one eye in front and one behind – that sort of 360 degree awareness is reserved for hearing, not seeing. And with sight we don’t just see generally but focus on one thing at a time. And with hearing we tend to focus as well on one particular sound at a time; even when hearing hundreds at once, especially in complex situations like a city street or well-attended cocktail party, we often find ourselves picking out particular highlights within the general hubbub.

When a large group are gathered together they will unite as one when their mind is focused on the same object. Be it a football in a stadium, a tennis ball on a championship court, or a speaker at a political rally or even one giving a live broadcast on television during a time of national crisis.

As mentioned earlier, our minds are local versions of the formless aspects of our two-sided natures, and the formless is not bound by time or space, by beginnings and endings or distances between here and there. So when we all focus on the game together in a stadium, all of our minds melt together becoming part of a greater whole. The same thing happens to nations in times of great stress or shock; the falling of the Twin Towers in Manhattan on 9/11 brought the entire country together. I remember walking in Manhattan a month or so later having flown in from Canada and being surprised at how clean the city felt, how soft and friendly were all the people. There were few tourists, it was nearly all locals who, uncharacteristically, were all warm and cosy, glad to be alive, glad to be together; it was like being part of a close-knit family. Their minds had merged from following the great crisis they had been going through together for weeks on end and so, at least for a while, they were attuned and enjoying some sort of kinship.

Whether it is a sports team, a small business, a crack special forces unit or a nation, enterprises involving two or more people need leadership. Decisions have to be made, plans have to be executed, projects have to be managed to fruition. No matter what the particular dynamic, moments come up regularly demanding reaction, decision, change or in other words, focus, and nearly always the group needs a leader to point out such a moment and provide direction for how to handle it, otherwise the various individuals in the group might each come up with a different approach and the result is a loss of common purpose or action.

This is a very ordinary thing, basically, and we have all experienced it constantly throughout our lives. The point of this Article is to highlight just one particular aspect of the leadership dynamic even though of course there are many, namely the aspect of projection.

Earlier, I mentioned how Tom Brady the NFL quarterback, for example, dwells in the minds of many fellow team mates and fans as a living icon, similar to a king or knight of old. Not only is this a source of inspiration and focus, but by taking on their projections of him as The Great One, so to speak, he can then channel their attention and lead it to where he wants it to go, which in his case – as he has often stated – is into their becoming the best team possible working together towards a common purpose which is to play up to their best potential and thus in the end emerge victorious. So he channels their focus on his leadership qualities into inspiring – and no doubt also cajoling – them to be the best that they can be, 24/7, seven days a week, not just for three hours once a week on the field.

Who knows if Tom really has the qualities his players and fans see in him, or whether they are imagined? Similarly, what does it matter if President Biden is actually the kind and wise uncle figure leading a nation through a time of turmoil caused in part by his predecessor and in part by a world wide flu outbreak? It’s very hard, and probably a waste of time, to try to pick through objective evidence (if there indeed is any such thing in this sort of terrain) to find out who the real Joe Biden is, what the real nature of the national situation was and now is and so forth. That’s all water under the bridge in some sense; what matters is any given ongoing dynamic now.

The function of propaganda is to channel the attention of the population away from Xes and into Y’s. One of the favorite Y’s is – at least in America – the President. We have many minor other leaders that engage us from time to time, principally so-called celebrities which include movie, television and sports stars, but in terms of national moments and national thrusts, the object of attention tends to be the President who embodies the desired messages which have already been delivered piecemeal through many different events, newscasts, text articles and so forth. When the President speaks, he speaks for us all in that moment and unites the country in focusing on that mutually experienced object of attention.

Of course the qualities we end up projecting onto that Leader are all highly subject to manipulation. If we are told and convinced that he or she is wise and noble, we will project wise and noble qualities onto that person when we see or hear them performing; conversely, if we are told and convinced that he or she is a despicable crook, then we will project all sorts of ignoble qualities onto them when we witness their performances.

Now of course in the case of leaders in modern democracies, they are usually there by virtue of elections wherein one political faction has bested another and so any given President is usually passionately supported by about half the population and only marginally supported, or outright detested, by the other half. This split in the projection vector of the population greatly diminishes the leader’s ability to unite the country, but that’s another issue perhaps for another time.

For now, let’s just leave it that leadership, which is a natural and needed function in human groups small and large, involves harnessing the projections of followers into desired group endeavours, be they wise or foolish, noble or wicked, uplifted or degraded, civilization-building or decadent. This only works because of the root projection, as it were, namely that this person IS their leader. Without that projection in place, they would lack any authority to inspire followership, kinship, respect, loyalty.

All leadership depends upon the projection of leadership qualities onto the leader by the followers, be such leaders in small tight-knit family circles or in large national situations.

Published by The Baron

Retired non-profit administrator.

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