An image of leadership?

Richard Sennett begins the first chapter of his book 'The Craftsman' with the line:

 'The Craftsman summons an immediate image.'

Sennett speaks of craftsmen as technicians as well as carpenters, as musicians or doctors.  Yet we have seen the demise of the craftsman in recent years as technology has disconnected us from our environment and world in which we live.  


Tonight I listened to Barack Obama asking for a fundamental change in the way we behave;  'For if we hope to end this crisis, we must end the culture of "anything goes" that helped create it.'  I make no judgement on whether Obama will deliver on the promises he made or whether a massive investment in infrastructure will achieve the results he hopes for.  I'm interested in how we can reconnect with our world in a sustainable way which will support 6, 7, 8 billion people. 


My image of the luxurious process of crafting a bowl in a woodland clearing is not realistic for many of us but I'm interested in the image of the craftsman as a leader. Sennett claims that all craftsmanship is founded on skill developed to a high degree and gives us the emotional rewards of anchoring people in reality and offering them pride in their work.  


Too often it seems that our leaders base their role on distant, coercive power as they attempt to achieve 'buy-in' for their ideas and, in doing so, lose touch with those around them and the work they undertake.   According to Sennett, if the craftsman is special it is because he or she is an engaged human being... 'the craftsman's aspirations and trials hold up a mirror to these larger issues past and present.'  A different image of the leader, setting the example of an engaged human being working at a human scale and critically exploring the dimensions skill, commitment and judgement.

Steve MarshallComment