Portrait of the ‘lone wolf’
By Ian Strachan
Last week I told you there were three kinds of Bahamian politicians. I was wrong. There are actually four. And since I neglected to even say what the three were, let’s get the four names out of the way early. The four types are the ‘lotioner’, the ‘grunt’, the ‘lone wolf’ and the ‘bulldog’. I told you last week about the Lotioner. The leader who leads from behind. The lotioner is the prototypical or classic politician, when you really think about it. Mostly talk, very little action.
The grunt I won’t waste time on. He’s just the kind of guy who hangs onto the coattails of the people in charge. He does what he’s told. He’s a follower really, a drone. So let’s leave him alone and deal with the big boys.
Next up: The lone wolf. Lone wolves can make inspiring, innovative, political leaders. But the truth is they are happier people if they lead in some other sphere than politics—some sphere where you don’t need people to vote for you. They probably do best as businessmen or civic leaders. They are natural leaders, don’t get me wrong. They are driven by passion, by ideals, not by the desire for attention or the desire for power. Well, to be precise, they want power, certainly, but they want it so they can turn the world into what they want it to be. They’re not all charismatic but they can all get in front of the crowd when they have to. The Lone Wolf wants you to hear him more than he wants you to see him.
He has strength of purpose. He can be visionary. But it’s hard for him to play the game of politics. It’s easy for the lone wolf to be political, but he often fails at being a “politician.” The lone wolf has a hard time doing what political survival and political success often call for: Lying, bribing, flattering or BSing the people. Which probably means he won’t last long. Lone wolves make great martyrs. They can’t keep their big mouths shut.
Sometimes, the lone wolf wants to be in charge but he doesn’t want to earn it. He wants you to just hand it to him because heck, he’s obviously the best man for the job. He will probably never earn it because he has a very hard time playing the game of hand go hand come. He’s rarely a good broker of deals. He has trouble understanding why everybody is not motivated by the same thing he is. In short, he wants to be in the game, needs to be in the game, will have no peace if he doesn’t get in there and t’row his blow, but he doesn’t want to play the game by the game’s rules. He wants a different set of rules. He wants to make the game over. He is prone to delusions of grandeur, you might say.
You see, hundreds and thousands have been playing the game just as it is and have no desire or will to change it. And to get to the top of a political party, you need to slip the delegates some cash, promise this one and that one a contract, guarantee this one a job for their louse of a son and that one a promotion they don’t deserve, grin up with scummies of various stripes, but he can’t bring himself, won’t bring himself to do it. He therefore can never really rise to number one under normal circumstances. He fails to understand that though he may be in politics because of a high sense of duty, or because he has what he thinks is something unique to contribute, others are there because they are trying to get over, trying to get ahead or trying to just plain survive. He won’t grease and he won’t lotion, so he remains respected but never trusted. He is a man of action, a man who gets things done. But secret deals often get made after he leaves the room. He is only made aware and included when the leader needs ideas and needs the right language. He is included when the organization needs to really get a difficult job done, a job that requires strategic thinking, analysis, eloquence, hard work and vigilance. But he’s not there when the spoils, the “unofficial spoils” are being discussed and divided.
On a basic level, politics, for the politician, is not so much about right and wrong as it is about compromise. Half measures are often the only measures that are possible. The lone wolf has an all or nothing personality, but in politics you never get “all”, so he usually settles for nothing. (Lone wolves do better as political advisers and consultants, speech writers and strategists, the power behind the throne. They last longer).
There’s another problem with the lone wolf. You have to follow before you can lead in this world and the lone wolf, in his impatience, in his passion, in his pride, in his faith and his own specialness has real trouble following. Lone wolves are never content unless they’re in charge; not really. Oh, they can endure someone else’s leadership for a while but eventually, inevitably, they get cross about something, and lose faith; eventually they’ll jump ship or do something that causes the captain to make them walk the plank.
Even if the lone wolf is in charge, he finds it extremely difficult to share leadership, even if it is going to strengthen his advantage or his cause. He does not trust anyone to properly implement his vision. So this kind of leader is normally less effective than he should be and is probably the most likely of all to burn himself out. (Which feeds his martyr complex).
Because the lone wolf is motivated most by his own principles (and ambitions?), not merely by the pleasures of being part of the winning side, he is the most likely to break party ranks. Because the lone wolf believes he’s the best man for the job, he normally can’t handle being passed over for someone else and can’t endure slowly climbing the ladder. He launches out alone. Better to be leader of a party with five thousand followers than a deputy in a party with forty thousand, apparently.
Oh, and one more thing; the lone wolf is blind to his limitations. He believes things are easier to accomplish than they actually are. And no matter how many times he fails, he is never cured of this affliction: this blind belief that he can do anything he sets his mind to and do it quickly and easily. What he thinks will take three months takes nine. What he thinks will take five years takes 15. But he charges on, normally blazing a trail. A trail ain’t nobody else interested in blazin’, cause they already know it’s too hard or will take too long.
Many political lone wolves die forgotten, penniless or heartbroken, haunted by the thousand good ideas they never brought to reality, the brilliant schemes left half-hatched, the scores of project blue prints gathering dust in the corner of some silent room in their homes. At his best, the lone wolf’s lack of conventional wisdom allows him to achieve remarkable feats. His lack of concern for his own long term political/professional survival challenges everybody around him to step up their game. His level of commitment and intensity makes others look bad. Unfortunately though, a lone wolf often ends up destroyed by the powerful people he helped gain that power, because he eventually decides to play the hero. He takes some principled stand instead of being quiet and being loyal to the team.
Who are the lone wolves? Randol Fawkes, Carlton Francis, Edmund Moxey and Cecil Wallace Whitfield come to mind. B.J. Nottage and Paul Moss perhaps.
Jul 07, 2011