In The Republic, Plato’s renowned Socratic dialogue, Socrates uses a parable known as the “Ship of State” to describe the mutiny of the masses over an incompetent leader. Socrates likens society to a ship that is steered by a wise philosopher, whose shipmates believe him to be unfit to serve as captain. They argue that he is too cerebral, and lacking in the practical knowledge necessary to navigate the ship, when in reality he is the most competent among them. Rather than improving conditions, the mutiny just perpetuates the toxic atmosphere that caused it in the first place.1
The Crowded Camel appears to be in a position similar to the captain in this metaphor. Though he is clearly the most qualified person to lead the kickball team, his visible unease and lack of confidence may be encouraging the young players to challenge his authority, and he runs the risk of coming across as too pre-occupied and absent-minded to command the team.
The Camel and the captain, two uniquely qualified individuals, each possessing wisdom and a breadth of experience unparalleled by their peers, represent the larger struggle of all individuals to convey to others the unique qualities that make them fit to lead.
All leaders at some point experience self-doubt or a lack of confidence, but it is important to remember that self-doubt can be fueled by self-reflection — an invaluable process in leadership. Through this process, we may find that the very qualities that cause us to doubt ourselves are the ones that give us strength and set us apart from others. Ultimately, these seemingly unconventional qualities are precisely what make us unique and exceptional leaders.
- “The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato.” The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.7.vi.html>.