Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution? Pfffffft!!!

In Mish-Mash of Wisdoms on June 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I heard it again today. A saying that drives me crazy:  “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem” .

It wasn’t said to me but I seem to have heard it a lot recently, and I wonder what it is all about.

I read recently that it is a motivational statement. Really?

Every time I have heard it used – there is no way that is motivational!! In fact every time I have heard it used it has come from a leader who has has no real idea about how to lead his/her way out of a sticky spot. A leader – or a rather a person in a leadership role – looking for someone to blame.

When used by this type of “leader”, I reckon it is simply a statement to demonstrate power and authority. Not dissimiliar to a demand for loyalty or respect.

And they usually finish it off with “… and if you’re part of the solution your have nothing to worry about” . Motivational!!! Pffft!!!

Every time I hear it I have an ominous sense of foreboding. Whenever I hear it, I wonder about the distinction between leadership and despotism.

Now, if I had been in the USA in 1968 and old enough to understand, I would have heard this concept for the very first time. And it could have been really motivating for one group … maybe pretty threatening for another.

The full quote comes from a speech delivered by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver in 1968:

“What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”

Cleaver’s speech was delivered in a specific social and political context – he was part of an oppressed sector of society battling against a system of entrenched inequality. His positioning of the problem/solution split pointed clearly to the need for conscious action to subvert the system. It also identified that not making a decision to take action against the system would be an action in itself – an action that endorses an unacceptable & dehumanising status quo.

It was a statement about the relationship between oppressor and oppressed in the social system, and the unified consciousness needed to transform that relationship and deliver a more human society.

It was a statement that enabled a dissident group to rise above the problem they encountered but had no institutional power to solve.

That is a whole lot different to holding the institutional power to solve a problem and then casting your eye around for people to blame for the existence of the problem.

So, when I hear this  part of the problem/part of the solution edict I conclude either:

  • There is a broad systemic problem that is being stonewalled by the people who have the power to change it, or
  • The leader issuing the edict is trying to assert power and authority rather than leading..

In both cases the leadership and the organisational structure really needs a close examination.  The organisational structure because it may be a strong determinant of the behaviour of the leader.

Of course, I could be reading too much into the edict but … well that is my thinking on it. Now, why I had to get that off my chest is anyone’s guess but there you go, it was part of today’s mish-mash.

  1. […] reminds me of the clip posted on mishmashmax by Chris Keeble – First Follower: Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy.  Here it […]

  2. Lol … yeah I have seen this before, the gathering of momentum to transform a lone nut into the leader of a movement is a beautiful process to witness.

    • … provided the transformed lone nut doesn’t let power go to his head and use the movement to subjugate those who don’t follow!!! If that happens, is it the “first follower” who is to blame?

  3. Max.. leadership is so over rated.. and I think actually THEY are part of the problem.
    It’s the first follower who is the solution( when it comes to momentum, inspiring and engaging people.. which is what leadership should be about? isn’t it?)..
    Check this out>

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