are hardly known to their followers.
Next after them are the leaders
the people know and admire;
after them; those they fear;
after them; those they despise.
To give no trust
is to get no trust.
When the work’s done right,
with no fuss or boasting,
ordinary people say,
Oh, we did it.
Le Guin’s commentary, which is important for this poem:
The invisible leader, who gets things done in such a way that people think they did it all themselves, isn’t one who manipulates others from behind the scenes; just the opposite. Again, it’s a matter of “doing without doing”: uncompetitive, unworried, trustful, accomplishment, power that is not force. An example or analogy might be a very good teacher, or the truest voice in a group of singers.
It’s interesting to read this on election day, given how it’s focused on leadership.
With all the belief in shadow governments and the fact that lobbyists have undue representation and influence in the US government, Le Guin’s commentary is significant. The idea is not a secret leader who’s manipulating a state or city or town, but a leader who leads by her absence. She empowers her people to the point that they believe her actions are actually their own.
And there’s no conflict here. Because leadership isn’t about rewards or laudation. It’s about leading. It’s about empowering people to take their own lives in their own hands.
Think about this today, and every day. But especially today when watching Donald Trump become the US President.