Toward or against?
Q: The tea-party movement doesn't want a single leader. After all, the last thing it wants is to become part of the "establishment." But in recent primaries, tea-party candidates ended up battling each other, enabling some incumbents to win. Does a successful organization need a leader to steer the boat? Or is it enough for the upstarts to oppose the "old guard" on principle and to agree on some key ideas?
In my work, I've found that people are often motivated to move or engage with the world around them in one of three basic ways: toward, away from, or against.
Those who move toward have a goal and work toward its achievement. The future beckons those who move toward. Those who move away from are motivated to escape, to get away from a current situation or reality that is not serving them. Self-preservation and protection are the lures to those who are motivated away from something.
I started my career in Career Development, and my challenge was often to shift my clients' motivation from that of someone moving away from a bad job to that of moving towards the job that better served them.
Moving away from a negative force can protect you, but moving toward something positive has more power and is more likely to be sustained. Moses led the Israelites away from slavery, but his followers were only willing to follow him 40 years through the desert when they were headed toward the promise land.
There are many, however, who default to move against -- against rules, authority or another person. This movement against often looks and sounds critical, oppositional, at times even confrontational, and while there are people and groups who are and should be driven by this type of energy (like watch dog groups or the press), political movements and leaders who fall into this category tend to marginalize themselves over time, being more associated with complaining and bomb throwing and less with productive movement toward a specific future state.
A leader I was coaching recently was struggling with a vocal critic who dogged my client at nearly every turn for unpopular decisions she made in solving a tough problem. When asked to lead a task force that would take on this problem head-on, this critic declined, preferring instead to remain on the sidelines, merely lobbing insults and criticism at those actually trying to make a difference and fix the problem. His desire to move and act against could not be harnessed to work toward.
Leaders (or would-be leaders) now active in the fledgling Tea Party movement need to grapple with their goals and motives through this template. Are they interested in merely complaining and opposing the efforts of those in power, defining themselves by their opposition to the established power structure? Are they interested in moving away from the current Democratic agenda, motivated by release and escape? Or are they more interested in leading folks toward a more desired future state?
Moving towards always draws the fire of those who are set to move against, and many of the budding Tea Party leaders, once they start proposing programs and policy, are going to find new critics among those who they now count as compatriots.
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