Tag Archives: “The Initiatory Act” “Ernest Becker” “Leadership” “Facade” “Fritz Ridl” “Psychology”

The Leadership Facade & Initiatory Act

From our favorite sports stars, music idols, to leading politicians, we accept a strange facade; the idea that someone just as fallible as we are has transcended our own capability. By accepting this, we surrender to the facade of leadership and become convinced that only they can do or be something which we cannot. It is, therefore, no wonder that so many accept the path of vicariousness and knowingly accept government ineptitude.

According to anthropologist Ernest Becker, the reason we are willing to surrender and accept the leadership role of another is because we allow ourselves to become seduced by their status since “they do not have the conflicts that we have; we admire their equanimity where we feel shame and humility… the leader wipes out fear and permits everyone to feel omnipotent.”[1]

In Fritz Redl’s perspective on leadership, he believed the importance of leadership was in “the simple fact that it was he who performed the “initiatory act” when no one else had the daring to do it. Redl calls this beautifully the “magic of the initiatory act.” This initiatory act can be anything from swearing to sex or murder.” [2]

The initiatory act can work in many ways. For example, if an employee takes one more sick day off than allowed but isn’t punished then suddenly, several other employees will do the same. The employee commits the initiatory act and thus empowers the other employees to challenge the power dynamic of the employer. After all, what are they going to do, fire them all? On a more positive note, it was once considered impossible to complete a four-minute mile but once it was finally completed, many other runners were suddenly breaking this supposedly impossible task, too. [3]

It would appear that someone committing the initiatory act almost magically makes it possible for others to do the same or allows them to be complacent within the comfort provided through the leadership asserted in the act. For most, the empowerment of the act is mostly superficial and does not confer any tangible power but in some cases, such as the four-minute mile, it does through belief and inspiration. That is, after all, what leaders of our world provide to us, a sense of belief and inspiration in the direction that things are being taken or are promised to be taken.

Understanding this facade of leadership and the initiatory act can be very empowering and enlightening in your personal life. You will find that so often, all it takes is enough bravery to do a particular thing for it to suddenly and almost magically become possible and acceptable. If you learn how to wield the initiatory act in a responsible way then you’ll find yourself the confident and active force in an often insecure and very passive world.

References:

1. Becker, Ernest., The Denial of Death, pg.135

2. Ibid., pg. 135

3. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-four-minute-mile