Leaders Should “Facilitate the Democratic Process”

Sheila was a passionate believer in democratic participation:

Others shared similar concerns. One was Sheila Ryan, a reporter for the Washington Free Press who began writing pieces for LNS in early 1968 after serving a harrowing six-month jail sentence for having sat in at the White House. Although hardly a cookie-cutter conformist, by the wild standards set by Bloom and Mungo, Ryan may have seemed culturally conservative. She had attended Catholic University, where she’d only rarely smoked marijuana (“because we didn’t have that much time to”), and she always knew that eventually she wanted to become a wife and a mother. Meanwhile, having steeped herself in the civil rights movement, Ryan was impressed with that struggle’s emphasis on democratic participation and consensus building. Her idea of a good leader, she said, was one “who would facilitate the democratic process and really allow people to come together and refine their ideas, and help the best ideas… emerge.” By contrast, she perceived an altogether different approach at LNS, whereby people clustered sycophantically around Bloom. Too often, the group’s accomplishments could be traced to a single individual’s inspiration, rather than the whole group’s collective effort.

— From Smoking Typewriters, John McMillian, Oxford University Press, 2011, page 147-148


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