Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Pete Seeger and Leadership

There are different types of leaders. Pete Seeger was a leader of causes.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the legendary folk singer, Pete Seeger. I had many opportunities to see Pete Seeger, most often at rallies for social causes. Throughout the years, I have considered him to be an effective and impactful leader. Although we often don’t think of individuals who support social causes as “leaders,” it is exactly this type of “small leadership” that we need.

To quote Pete, “Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many small leaders.” Leadership does not reside in top-level leaders, but is a shared process of many “small” (and large) leaders working together with empowered followers to get things done. Through his music and social activism, this “small” leader had a big impact.

Character is a critical element in effective leadership, and the courage to stand up for your convictions, and to stand up for the less fortunate, are important aspects of leadership. I believe that Pete Seeger had that element of leader character.

Here are some quotes from him that have important leadership lessons:

 

“It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”

“Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is what you get when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”

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“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.”

“I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life.”

Rest in peace, Pete.

 

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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