Thursday, 27 October 2011

Developing a Social Consciousness

In “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” Robert B Cialdini outlines the challenge of leadership for corporate executives:
[They] every day have to figure out how to motivate and direct a highly individualistic work force. Playing the ‘Because I’m the boss’ card is out. Even if it weren’t demeaning and demoralizing for all concerned, it would be out of place in a world where cross-functional teams, joint ventures, and intercompany partnerships have blurred the lines of authority. In such an environment, persuasion skills exert far greater influence over others than formal power structures do. (72)      
The work of any leader, whether in teams, business, or government, is to build a community with shared goals and values. This is what the free people of Libya are now facing. How does this happen?

In “Search for the Great Community” John Dewey notes that “associated or joint activity is a condition of the creation of a community” (151), but though association may be physical and organic, “communal life is moral, that is emotionally, intellectually, consciously sustained” (151). In other words, though human networks may form spontaneously, a community can only be created and sustained through conscious effort. The revolutions of the Arab Spring have been connected through networks of people united in a common goal: to get rid of Ghaddafi. Yet now they have to develop that into a community with common long-term goals.

As Dewey goes on to say, “’we’ and ‘our’ exist only when the consequences of combined action are perceived and become an object of desire and effort” (151). The individual must be able to envision positive consequences from a community which he cannot achieve as an individual, and then work consistently towards those consequences. A leader must therefore be able to develop a vision, or help articulate consequences which many individuals would see as desirable, and then identify the processes and values which will lead to those consequences. The future leaders of Libya must have a vision which can transcend tribal boundaries and selfish gain, and they must be able to communicate it to the people of Libya.

Dewey claims that “the results of conjoint experience are considered and transmitted” (153). These contain meanings which then direct wants and impulses which lead to desires and purposes which now are shared, becoming “a community of interest or endeavour. Thus there is generated what, metaphorically, may be termed a general will and social consciousness: desire and choice on the part of individuals in behalf of activities that, by means of symbols, are communicable and shared by all concerned” (153). Thus, for so-called “team building” a leader should seek for meaningful experiences which the team can share together, and then facilitate the discussion about the shared experience which can then generate shared values. Rather than just presenting his vision and expecting them all to adopt it, he can lead all participating in actively formulating and outlining that vision and committing to it. As Cialdini notes, people feel more obligated to live up to their commitments went they are “active, public, and voluntary” (76)

Though they have many differences, the people of Libya all have shared the experience of living under the rule of Ghaddafi, and most of them have cooperated to bring an end to that rule. Already in the draft for the new Constitution they have mentioned this experience which shows them clearly that there is no other way forward for a free society than to guarantee the freedom and liberty of all Libyans, regardless of tribe, gender, or race, and that democracy is the answer. This is the position of the NTC, but in order for these beliefs to be accepted by the Libyan people there has to be a national discussion where the meaning of the last 8 months (seen in relation to the past 42 years) are determined and clarified. Thus, the legacy of the revolution can become a center of common values to which all Libyans can look, as France looks to the Bastille, and the Americans look to the Declaration of Independence.A leader then can facilitate shared experiences which are communicated and create a social consciousness and leads to communal action. The social consciousness of Libya is being debated, formulated, and envisioned through tweets, blogs, and celebrations of freedom.

Let us pray that this will be the future of Libya.