Moe Theory, and Empathy vs. Leadership Roles

I've written pages and pages on this post but I think I'm getting close to cleaning it up for normal consumption - Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.  We're still going around the block, though - come on.

Humans are social animals, and we want to connect. We learn our patterns through our parents first; then, through a series of trials and errors, we try to collect people we like who also like us.

Or we learn to like that which we attract, and we let our collection define us. We learn to follow as a default.

Friend and author Mari Sloan gave a great explanation of how not all natural leaders are the same:
Packs are the problem. Leaders either have a "world" mentality, or a "pack" mentality. People are that way, too. Crowds gravitate toward a good "pack leader," because that person makes them feel safe, removes the necessity for thinking out situations as they come up, asks for nothing but loyalty. That sort of leader is totally happy with themselves, finds no need for improvement. "Get with the program, or get out." Friend or Foe. No middle ground. Simple. A "world" leader is looking for the high moral ground. For what is best for the world, friends and foes. It means sacrifices, putting themselves in other people's shoes, a lot of research leading to thinking, reasoning, deciding and a lot of being dissatisfied with themselves in a continual effort to improve. And NO ONE is ever completely bonded to them because they are not blindly loyal. They are loyal to the whole. 

Mari has made a solid observation.  I think her model describes two different reactions natural leaders have to empathy.

Empathy seems to be when you can feel the unmet needs in others - feel literally, physically, not just have an understanding. If I prick you, I will bleed. The mistake is to assume that in fulfilling someone's need, that person will reciprocate by fulfilling  yours.  Easy to define intellectually; not so easy to recognise in one's self.

I can't follow, nor lead. I'm trying to build a heterarchy. Possibly because nobody knows what that is,  I'm having challenges. If I don't meet the parameters accepted in today's relationship models -  business, friend, family, I feel like a let-down. I take lack of acceptance as rejection, which is a model I learned: don't be a let-down. Obviously I've done something to deserve this.

The friend I call Moe wants to build a heterarchy, too, but she keeps getting pushed into the Pack Leader position - the one where people happily follow, or don't. We agree that the ideal would be a band of Moes, every one a head stooge who sees what needs to be done and is ready to lead (that's where we get the name.)

Delegation can come from any direction in a heterarchy, because the other Moes will see the value of the proposal, not just the directive. However, a lot of Moe types are in leader position because they like telling stooges what to do. They aren't receptive to being recruited by another Moe; they think they'll have to acquiesce to being stooges.

So how do you build a heterarchy when everyone has grown comfortable with their own Modus Operandi?  How do you avoid slipping into one of your old connection templates? How does answering the question help adults make friends?

We are going to resolve all that. It may take several blog posts to do it, but here's a short-list to get us started:

  1. Identify your ideal. You can't get what you want if you don't know what it is. Be specific with yourself. Do you want to spend time doing a certain thing you like with others? Do you want to learn something new? What are you bringing to the table, and what do you want others to bring? This is the outline of your new friend-making process.
  2. Categorise yourself: what are your current processes? Which have garnered relative success, and which resulted in failure?
  3. Re-evaluate #2, because you won't find the right answers the first time. Now, do it again.
  4. Our goal is to build new processes to add to the tool box. Like shopping for sponsors, you should have tiers. The tier of coffee buddy is not going to have the same set of expectations as band member or spouse, for example. Make sure you are clear with yourself on these expectations before proceeding. Break down the aspects of your ideal and know what you can accept at each level.
  5. If there is an option to move to a higher tier later, make that known.  If moving to a higher tier later is the goal, make that known. I don't recommend going in with this as a plan, though, since we are building something new.  NASA knows that not every launch is going to, well, launch. Schedule in some trial-and-error space for your test runs.
  6. ALWAYS include an opt-out clause. You can't tell other people how to feel. They may like you but not be interested in the package you're offering. It is an offer, after all. You may have included in your package a deal-breaker for the other party. It's not your fault or theirs, if you have been forthright. 
  7.  Practice walking away. The two sides of the double-edged sword are Feelings and Expectations. It's ludicrous to tell yourself you have no expectations; it's not possible and it isn't what you mean when you say it. What you mean is that you expect to be disappointed. Adjust that a bit and be willing to be disappointed; better yet, realise that scrubbing the launch was one of the possible outcomes. Start working on the next rocket.

Further Reading:

SpaceX Blog  Kids, science is not dead.  Add this to your weekly reading list.

The Three Stooges
In case you are younger than a millennial and aren't sure what I mean by Stooge. 

Leg Exercise is Critical to Brain and Nervous System Health
So yeah, that's not what I meant in the post, but literally practice walking away.


  1. Expect to be surprised. Humans are dynamic, constantly changing -- loosely bound skin sacks with an operating system that races offline at the oddest times. As I get older I realize I have less control over my connections with others than I ever have, and less energy to deal with the emotions involved. "Feelings and expectations," the curse of humankind. Time's clock ticks on and while expectations are the minute hand, feelings measure the seconds. And the hours? Days? Months? Years? What other sort of organism remembers just what it wants to remember, bounces off others like a drunken sperm cell and then disappears into oblivion leaving random memory flashes of itself behind? "The sum of your life is the good that you tried to do, not the mistakes that you made." We tell ourselves this. It is in our DNA. We still want to matter; to have our existence marked by change incurred because we were here. Good or bad change. So we connect. Painfully, we keep trying. And painful it is.


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