We present few thoughts from interview with Earl Hopper on the topic of large groups, group leaders and societies desiring a strong leadership, November 2017. Come and learn more in October in the lecture " Making space for personal charisma and political innovation in the shift from fields to systems to matrices in the appreciation of the “social unconscious” in Group Analysis“.
With Earl Hopper on the topic of group leaders and societies desiring a strong leadership
In November 2015 in Prague, while introducing the book Social Unconscious in Persons, Groups and Societies, You held a very inspiring lecture. It happened to be a day after the terrorist attacks in Paris. I remember you mentioned, that after these attacks we will hear much calling for “strong leaders“. We have that really a lot in Czech Republic in the last years. What do these „strong leaders“ actually bring to a group in Your opinion?
EH: I think the word leader is often misleading - the leaders are misleading. Bion and others often use the word leader to describe a prominent person. Or what Fritz Redl, a german group analyst, in 1946 called the central persons. They are not really leaders. You sometimes get these prominent strong central persons who really don´t lead anything except a narcissistic process in having themselves fed and having their narcissism flattered. That is not leadership. Leadership to my mind relates to workgroup functioning, not basic assumption group functioning. So often this “call for strong leaders“ has to be confronted and interpreted and we have to ask what do you mean by strong leader?
I know that certain things have to be taken care of - dynamic administration, we need to know that various activities are going to be looked after, we need good communication and we need moral values to be honoured. This is leadership. But that is not necessary strong leadership, it is more about effective and efficient leadership. But that is not what people are calling for. They are calling for strong central person prominence. The word leadership is misused. When people in groups are terribly frightened and they don´t know what is going to happen or what is going to be repeated, they keep calling for strong leadership but what they really mean is God, or Jesus, or a dictator. They don´t really mean leadership. Good leadership means communication, explaining to people what has to be done, letting them know where we are, reaffirming the values of truth and that compromise is necessary. That is not the same as so-called “strong leadership”.
So this calling actually comes from a society or group that is in the fourth assumption?
EH: Well, yes and not just the fourth, but all of them. It may well be that the society or the organization doesn´t really want a good leader, what they want is a good central person. They want a massification leader, a Hitler. And sometimes you just have to wait until all of that fails. History has taught us that sometimes these terrible crises can´t be dealt with other than by our suffering and slowly re-establishing our moral communites and our political institutions through political action.
Magdalena Kolínská Singerová