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Prepper Leadership – Do You Know What Role Is Best for You?

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Leadership is a strange thing. Many people throughout history have become reluctant, yet legendary leaders while others have been technically in a leadership position, but the results of their command were far from stellar. Several of the later type come to mind easily. Many preppers assume that during some catastrophe, we as a group will naturally be tapped to be the leaders due to our forethought, preparation and skills –  presumably for dealing with the crisis, that others around us simply don’t have. On the surface I can see the merit in that idea because if I was in a situation that was completely foreign to anything I knew or was able to cope with, I would look to the people who seemed to know what they were doing and follow their lead.

Preppers take great strides to prepare for bad times but I don’t know that simply “being prepared” or having a plan will necessarily make you a great prepper leader. Being prepared for the worst won’t guarantee that anyone else will view you as a leader either. The saying goes if you are leading and nobody is following you, then you are only taking a walk. I bring this up because I do think that some preppers expect to be in charge when the grid goes down and more than a few might be looking forward to the idea. They might be saying to themselves, “Hey I saved up all of these supplies and I made plans so I get to decide what happens now.” With this attitude they would be saying that it is their way or the highway no matter what. If this is you, it might be setting yourself up for a big disappointment and possibly worse.

Who looks forward to being in Prepper leadership anyway?

I think it is natural for people to want to be in charge of anything they are involved with to a certain point. If I am engaged in something, I want to see some of my ideas acted upon and instinctively I make decisions based upon what I know or think. This doesn’t mean I am the leader of anything and it certainly doesn’t make me the best leader simply because I have ideas. It also doesn’t mean my decisions will be right. In my home for example, I will usually spout off with whatever I think or believe is the best decision when my opinion is asked for. This is a horrible trait of mine that I am still working to improve. It is more important to listen sometimes (all times?) than it is to speak and my willingness to pop off with whatever is on the top of my head has gotten me in trouble more times than I care to remember.

Do you plan to be the Ruler of everything that survives?

Do you plan to be the Ruler of everything that survives?

My wife on the other hand will usually have a more even-tempered approach when asked to make a decision. This isn’t a universal law by any stretch, but the times when I am having a knee-jerk reaction (and I am flat-out wrong) are when she usually uses logic to get me to consider alternatives. What does this mean?

It means that I, even though I am supposed to be the leader of my house and family don’t always get things right. I am human and I make mistakes – a lot of them. Fortunately, they haven’t been mistakes that cost me too dearly and it isn’t like I am always wrong either. Sometimes, I quickly pop off a great idea or a wise thought but again that isn’t all of the time.

Leading people during crisis will be tough

For a long time I assumed that in a crisis, for my family at least, I would have the first and likely last word on everything we would be doing. I figured, like so many others that I have been giving these subjects more thought than anyone else in my family so who could question my decisions? If I say it is time to bug out, we go. If I say we aren’t going to give charity to someone, we don’t. If I say someone must die for heinous offenses, who would argue with me?

Over the years I have learned; like I mentioned above, that I don’t always have the right answers but I do always have an answer. I think I know what is right in every situation but sometimes when I learn more information or consider things differently I will change my mind. In a life and death situation the decisions you make could be just that. Life or Death to yourself, your family or to strangers you don’t even know. If I find myself in a situation where people are looking to me for leadership I will try to remember that this is a heavy responsibility. It is not a title I will have been given simply because I have purchased supplies. It is not a supreme right I have that empowers me above anyone else purely because I have chosen to lead this lifestyle of preparedness. Leaders aren’t anything more than the ones held responsible for the lives entrusted to their care. Leadership doesn’t come with more wisdom or better ideas. That happens in spite of the responsibility of the position.  Leadership requires trust and respect of the people you are leading. If you don’t have that, you are just a dictator.

Simply being in charge doesn't make you more qualified, or smarter than anyone else.

Simply being in charge doesn’t make you more qualified, or smarter than anyone else.

What good is prepping if you aren’t in charge?

Prepping for me personally is not something I do because I am looking to set up my own dictatorship if/when the grid goes down. I don’t have visions of being the Mayor of Bartertown or anything closely resembling that. I do think that I will likely have a lot of good ideas if I find myself in that type of situation, but I am not running a campaign for the next Dear Leader of Armageddon. I don’t really want to be in charge of anything more than my family if I am being honest. Depending on the size of the family I am fortunate enough to be responsible for, that might be a shared leadership in any case. A reader of our blog said that they could see themselves more in a second in command role. Ready, willing and able to offer advice or support as needed and that is an easy vision for me to see for myself in any crisis.

To those who steadfastly demand that you will be in charge of everything should the world go sideways, that might not work out the way you want it to. History has shown that people will follow a good leader to the ends of the earth, but bad leaders usually fall in some way. Rather than having the mind of a dictator who will make the final say in all matters once the grid goes down from behind the scope of a long rifle and a mountain of beans, you might look at this another way.

Preppers I think will be natural targets of attention in a crisis once their status is known. This can be a good thing if you make wise decisions. It could get you killed if you have the “screw them all” attitude. Sure you can hide as long as you want and practice Grey Man but if all goes well you will still be alive, unless the rest of the world dies. Since you obviously know a thing or two by the fact of your evident life, people may look to you for help, guidance and perhaps leadership. Make sure this is a decision you do not make lightly and do not wish for foolishly.

Prepping gives you options that people who do not prepare might not have. One of these options is knowledge, perspective and hopefully a more reasoned, carefully thought out plan. Use this to make lives better after a disaster. Don’t plan on taking that all to the grave with you or let your rush to dictate, force someone to decide your time is up for the good of everyone else.

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  • Bolofia

    As always, thanks for a well written and thought provoking post. As a veteran, you know that one of the military’s most important investments is in leadership training. It is a vital
    element of unit cohesiveness and survival.

    In a crunch, I would rather surround myself with 20 year veterans than a bunch of MBAs.

    • Thank you very much Bolo and dittos on the veterans. I shudder to think of what would really happen in a true collapse. My fear is we would have a generation, maybe two of people sitting there screaming that life isn’t fair.

  • O.M. Knutson

    Well said,

    There is an old principle of truth called, “Peter’s Principle” and it goes something like this. “People are often promoted to their highest level on incompetence!”

    This generally applies to bureaucracies and private corporations that grow too big for their britches. However, in life we have all seen Peter’s Principle at work in smaller organizations and even families, too.

    Regarding extreme survival events (and life in general) when the pressure is on and everyone is trying to drain the swamp while up to their knees in alligators, there are a number of particular traits that cause real leaders to rise to surface, even when they are not interested in taking charge.

    I have a chapter on this subject based on psychological studies done regarding survival events that will be in my second survival book, now in progress and tentatively called, Survival 2.0. I was honored to have assisted in a couple of those studies over the decades.

    If you’d care to discuss the issue or read the findings, drop me an email and where to send the information.

    God Bless,
    Orrin M. Knutson
    Retired Peace Officer and search/rescue volunteer
    Published Author

  • LWJ

    Depending on what kind of situation or task the group is working on will determine who will be Chalrles in Charge. If we’re trying to rework the plumbing or playing with electricity that will be my dad who leads that effort. If we’re trying to to fortify the house then that would be me as the go to person. If we’re trying to negotiate with another group my brother would get to take charge in that effort. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and should be willing to be a leader and a follower when it comes down to it. However this works best when you have a group with a very high trust level, like a family and your used to working with on a regular basis.

    • Bolofia

      LWJ: You nailed it with both of your statements about expertise and trust. There are people in my sphere that have superior knowledge and experience in certain areas, but that doesn’t mean that I would automatically rely on their knowledge (or trust their judgment) in areas outside of their expertise. The only reason I can say that is because we have worked together for a long time. In my view, a critical aspect of leadership is recognizing everyone’s limitations – including my own.

      I think what Pat is getting at is what happens when people that you may or may not know, who have no preparation, no expertise and no experience, turn to you/us in a crisis. That raises a host of ethical questions.

      • LWJ

        Strangers simplify the problem immensely really. If somebody is doing things to endanger my family they will be treated as such. I won’t follow them or allow them to tag along, my coworker are a great example.

    • Great points LWJ. A family does lend itself better to situations like this I think or else as Bolo says a group that has been together for a very long time.

  • Fifth_Disciple

    Often in my life while mentoring young wannabe leaders I would sit them at a table and hand them a small piece of chain. I’d instruct them to stretch it tight between their left and right hand until it was straight. I’d then instruct them to take their right hand and push the chain in a straight line to their left. Having done this I’d ask them what they saw. The typical reply involved the chain falling behind the hand and following it across the table. That, my friends, is the most valuable lesson for a leader. You can’t lead from the rear. A wise man knows that leading is often like trying to herd cats. The best leader is often the one conscripted, the one who doesn’t really want the job. All to often those who volunteer are long on ego and short on wisdom and experience.

    • Thank you for that visual Fifth_Disciple. I think many people will want to lead and find great frustration when people don’t listen to their sage advice. For some this will play out the right way, but others will get petty and vindictive. Our worst character flaws will come out under duress.

  • Cindy

    Your so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you, don’t you!

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    I’m at an age where I know far LESS than I want to know about “stuff” in general, and do not feel one bit bad about admitting it. No leader is an expert nor can they possibly be. I echo Bolo’s comments about surrounding my self with veterans over MBA’s(and our son is an MBA, but he was raised by us, so we think he’s pretty good at what he does, and how he treats his people that work for and with him.
    I’ve no desire to lead a group of people that EXPECT to be “rescued”. Not going to happen in reality, because the ONLY “Cavalry coming to the rescue”, is US. Period, nobody else is going to be there. Real leadership is being able to maximize your people’s talents and help THEM magnify them and expound on them, as well as accepting ALL of the accountability for when things go straight into the crapper;AND: giving your people ALL of the credit for when things go right.
    Anything else, in my experience and personal opinion(subjective as all get out) is useless drivel and political posturing. I’m done with people that want to “posture”, they are useless drones taking up space and creating huge bottlenecks in production and performance in any organization.
    OK, stepping off the soap box now, apologies IF, I offended anyone personally, not meant at members of this forum at all. I really try to be a good team member and believe strongly in the Rodeo School of Diplomacy…..grabbing the bull by the horns or cojones if necessary, instead of trying to negotiate with the bull. Negotiating with any bull, is like trying to stack marbles vertically, and just as frustrating. So far, being a magna cum laude graduate of the Rodeo School of Diplomacy, I’ve not been asked to apply for a career in the US Foreign Service and am still not the teensiest-bit offended at that.