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Solitude and Leadership: By William Deresiewicz

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Deresiewicz makes some good points on those who are rewarded within a bureaucracy, also on the detriment of social networking and internet based multi-tasking and the limits of academic learning. Yet I have to say that I am confused by his statements regarding the need for individual free thinking officers in the US army. Granted these free thinking officers may be an asset to the bureaucratic structure of the US army, however these 'free thinking' individuals can hardly be intellectually honest with themselves if they are satisfied with pursuing a path of hierarchy and subordination.


Deresiewicz's notion of solitude and leadership lays the structure of bureaucracy and academic learning on the table for debate, but he does not consider any need for debate on a broader framework of state based power and its inevitable need for military action that has supported his career. It is entertaining to reflect on his statist assumptions considering his criticism that academic learning promotes 'leaning' on others assumptions rather than true, free thinking, exploration of issues.

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I hadn't heard of Deresiewicz before, until I came across the article.


I think people have all kinds of motivations, interests, backgrounds, that may make them choose to enter a life of subordination in the Army (or any other bureaucracy). Intelligence doesn't necessarily come into it.

Whilst in the Army they will follow orders, it doesn't mean they should not think about them, the reasons, how/why/etc.


The part about General Petraeus struck me...


No, what makes him a thinker—and a leader—is precisely that he is able to think things through for himself. And because he can, he has the confidence, the courage, to argue for his ideas even when they aren’t popular. Even when they don’t please his superiors. Courage: there is physical courage, which you all possess in abundance, and then there is another kind of courage, moral courage, the courage to stand up for what you believe.


You don't see that enough. It's why bad things happen.....think Abu Ghraib, countless corporate collapses, etc.

Corporations are bureaucracies as much as governments, and you'll come across intelligent people all the time. But you won't come across many great leaders.

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