Leaders vs. Community

If given the option of “lead, follow, or get out of the way,” as the saying goes, I gladly get the fuck out of the way and do my own thing. I am not big on being led (or leading, for that matter) and I have been thinking a bit about leaders since the Ancestral Health Symposium. I have also been thinking a lot about community. Finding community was (is) my intention with this blog, with my ridiculous tweets, with attending AHS (I also attended to learn, of course), with many of my actions.

It seems “paleo” has some issues. These issues vary depending on who you ask. Lack of diversity, lack of coherent message, lack of science, lack of applicability to the greater population….whatever.  I don’t know, but I wonder if some of these problems stem from the fact that much of paleo relies on the teachings of its “leaders,” rather than using a community-driven approach, where everyone shares information and their own particular expertise and/or experiences.

Let me provide a few examples of the problem, as I see it. At AHS, attendees crowded into a talk where paleo leaders rehashed the old potato debate (aka “safe starch” debate). I get bored just typing that. Meanwhile, one of the most important talks of the conference (my opinion) was going on in the other conference room: on bringing ancestral nutrition to Latino communities. This talk was passionate, inspiring, and could actually make a difference in people’s lives. Yet, the vast majority of attendees were too concerned about what their leaders had to say about carbs to hear it. If paleo was community-centered, the Latino talk would be more applicable, because the focus would be on community health, not if a fucking potato is right for an individual (sorry, I get a little fired up when I think about how many people missed the Latino community talk).

Another example: the other day on twitter, someone asked a handful of paleo leaders about a heart murmur. None of these leaders were medical professionals. Um… if I have cardiac questions, I ask someone who has been trained in medicine! This sort of thing happens all the time. I think people have a hard time grasping that their leaders are not all-knowing, and that can be dangerous.

And we all know what happens when paleo leaders turn out to be liars, or jerks. These people are human, for fuck’s sake. Can we stop idolizing them just because they have a book or a website or a compelling story?

I do appreciate many of the people who make this their life’s work.  For example, I wouldn’t have started down this path without the recipes from The Clothes Make the Girl and the inspiration/information from Whole9.  There are many other blogs I adore from people who don’t make their living selling paleo.  However, I don’t consider any of these people my leader.  (I just realized, a good alternate title for this rambling could be “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”)

I know there is a community aspect within paleo; I just would like to see it nudged more toward that direction, and away from guru-land. I know that I not looking for a leader. I am looking for a sense of community: a place where I can share my ideas, have them critiqued, and leave with better thoughts than I could have ever come up with on my own.  A group of people who share the desire for a healthy, fun, productive, meaningful life.   And in the end, we will all be better people for being a part of this community.

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5 Responses to Leaders vs. Community

  1. Here, here! Although I’m reading a book about introverts right now that talks about how 40 years of research into group dynamics proves that it’s worse than individuals working on their own. Which means brainstorming is actually bad! But I think we’re okay, because the crowdsourcing we do in Paleo is collaboration that occurs after solitude. It combines the best of both worlds perhaps. 🙂 I hope so anyway, because I’m with you 100%.

    • Thanks, Karen! I think I have heard of that book. Send me a link when you have a chance; this introvert needs affirmation and assistance! I find I have a hard time contributing to a group until I have had time to think about things on my own, so it sounds like the author is spot on (for me)! I do appreciate collaboration; as a left-brainer, I rely on creative types to come up with ideas that I can then tinker with (in solitude, like you said). I am constantly amazed by our community, so that has to be a good thing!

  2. I agree so much. We’ve had many guests on our shows who have become leaders in certain food movements like raw food and paleo and what I get from them after the interview is a real need for community.

    I don’t think anybody should be in charge of our health. We know our bodies better than any diet guru or doctor can ever know!

  3. Zanjabil says:

    I like this post! As a simple rural dwelling mom I agree the info stands on it’s own for me, no guru needed. When you/ we idolize these “gurus” it smacks of a cult. When we share n=1 experiments and the science behind eating like our ancestors then we are just a community of “like” minded exchanging information. Okay I just went off on a tangent ;P

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