Dedication and Leadership

Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde is one of my favorite books. Hyde, who had been a member of the Communist Party for over twenty years, renounced his membership and joined the Catholic Church in 1948. However, instead of abandoning the things he had learned as a member of the party, he instead adapted his lessons and training for his new life. This book is an instruction manual of sorts for other organizations (original audience is members of the Catholic Church) to apply the techniques to building dedication to the cause and leadership abilities in their membership.
Hyde writes that he does not “believe the strength of Communism lies in the strength of its ideas” (p. 12). Instead, he points to the distinguishing mark being, “their zeal, dedication, devotion to their cause, and willingness to sacrifice” (p. 16).

Idealistic young people will want to change the world and will pursue their own idealistic course in any case. If their idealism is not appealed to and canalized within the circles in which they have grown up they will seek elsewhere for an outlet… They say if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response which is all you deserve, but, if you make big demands on them, you will get an heroic response (pp 17-18) .

I first became aware of this book when it was quite literally thrown at me at a Leadership Institute school. It is on Morton Blackwell’s “Read to Lead” list. I have since given several copies away to colleagues and friends. Now, it has become even more meaningful from the perspective of an educator.
“Dedication and willingness… must be developed within a person, then drown out of them, not forced in… It is bad psychology and bad politics to ask for too little” (p. 27) How many educators today ask for too little? Hyde gives a direct challenge, “[I]t does not matter how dull a subject may be, it can still be presented in an inspiring way. It is up to the tutor to discover how this can be done.  This calls for thought and ingenuity. But above all else, he must himself be inspired” (p. 50).
Education, even of obscure theories, can be applied to everyday life. “Any Communist tutor who is worth his salt finishes each class with these words: ‘What are the comrades going to do about what they have learned today?’… The first item on the agenda when the class next meets will be: ‘How did the comrades apply what they learned last week?’” (p. 56)

Education is not for the sake of education. To pursue that focus is to totally miss the mark. Instead, education should provide the tools for life. “The Communist tutor is expected to remind himself over and over again that he is not just concerned with passing on knowledge to people. His aim is to equip them for action and to assist them to become leaders” (p. 74) That must be our focus. It grieves me when a student tells me they want to be pre-med or pre-law so they can make a lot of money. If we can convince them to be dedicated to the cause of excellence in everything from term papers to their part-time jobs, success will follow. We must teach them to be the leaders of the next generation. If just a few of the students who pass through our classroom could learn that lesson, a career as an educator will be worth it.  

Hyde, Douglas. Dedication and Leadership. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966.

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