A Good Leader

Mark Gerzon

Private facilitator, Mediator, Trainer, Author and key organizer of the Congressional Civility Retreats

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

People called them leaders, but I noticed that the quality of leadership wasn't really what I thought the world needed.

Rather, it was leading a part against another part, not bridging the parts, not leading the whole, just leading the part. So you've got the guy who was born Muslim, winds up being the Muslim leader. You've got the guy who was born Christian, ends up being the Christian leader. That's cool, but what about the guy who's going to lead the Muslims and the Christians to live together? That's got to be somebody who's a different kind of leader and we don't even have a language for it, we just have this big word called leader and shit. If the Eskimos have sixteen words for leader, we could at least have a couple of words for leader and we do, we have words like jerk, asshole, saint, genius, we have all these words, but we don't really.

So that's what the book's about, and unlike most leadership books, it's about the conflict of leadership because I see that as a key thing. How does a leader deal with conflict? Do you avoid it? Do you stay among your own? Do you lead us against them, or do you say well who is that then, and how can we bridge that in some way?


What I notice is that people who have taken leadership positions and have never had one moment of training on how to deal with differences, not even conflict resolution, how to deal effectively with differences, they've never been trained. They've been trained in all kinds of things but never in how to deal with differences. So whether it's a corporation trying to resolve disputes between their sales force and their engineers or a community in the middle east trying to resolve conflicts between Arabs and Jews, people in leadership areas have had no experience with that and that's the big shift that I'd like to see.


And if you look at King, Mandela and Gandhi, they had certain qualities in common which was that all of them identified with the whole. All of them opposed the adversary without demonizing the adversary, and that was one of the reasons why they were so effective. They didn't achieve what they achieved by making an adversary less than human. They had been made less than human by the adversary, but they did not respond by making the adversary less than them. And that's the spiritual aspect. When I go back to saying that it's as much about the heart and the soul as the mind, when you look at Mandela, King, and Gandhi, they were profoundly spiritual people When they explain the source of their effectiveness, they will refer to deeply spiritual and psychological sources.