Then the Alien Came Looking for Spartacus #10 #cong21


 I have taken a tongue in cheek satirical approach to my piece this year.  Conceptually I wanted to create something as laughable and ludicrous as some of our world ‘leaders’ have become.  Sometimes the situation is so dire that satire is the only way to go.  I am generally an optimistic person but I do wonder in despondency at the lack of real leadership in the world. We have an abundance of managers and bureaucrats in suits and ties squaring off against media megalomanics and techie attitude punks in jeans, t-shirts and woolly jumpers.   They swing from right to left with no sense of right or wrong.  That’s not leadership.  They crave the attentions and the powers of the very people they profess to despise – yet the truth is that they don’t actually despise their vision, they simply resent and covet their power.  These are the leaders who want power for their own ends and ego. Our following of them quite literally empowers them and so if we want better leaders then maybe we should try to be more discerning followers.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Leaders could be anyone really so the question is ‘would YOU follow them?’  People follow evil cult leaders all the time. They are effective leaders for sure but they are bad ones.  Leadership is not in itself a good thing, there needs to be a ‘right’ goal.   To some extent, followers make leaders so if we want better leaders then maybe we should try to be more discerning followers.
  2. Leadership that I am prepared to follow is a combination of the following  – a moral compass that points to a vision for a better future with the capability to communicate it and the commitment to go there.   That is just me.  What about you?  Do we think enough about who we choose to follow?
  3. When the alien comes looking for the Spartacus leaders we need to make sure they are protected.  Our future good leaders need and deserve our protection because leaders are neither entirely infallible nor supremely strong.  They are human too. Great leaders acknowledge and respect the trust placed in them and will act accordingly and without entitlement.
  4. Just as the concepts of leadership and following are intertwined, so too are leadership and insurrection/anarchy/rebellion.  So with that in mind, taking a satirical approach to my piece has been my nod to that.

About Joan Mulvihill:

 Joan Mulvihill – long time member of the Congregation.  Blow-in member of Mullingar community. Sometime joiner of the artist community.  Recent member of Siemens Ireland having joined as Digitalisation Lead in February 2019.   She is as likely to talk to you about poetry and art as she is to talk about technology and society.  She is annoyingly happy right now so you’ve been warned!  For someone who says she’s not a joiner, she seems to find herself in a lot of things!!!.

Contacting Joan Mulvihill

You can follow Joan on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By Joan Mulvihill

Dear King of Cong,

I am so sorry this is so late but you will never believe what happened.  I was mowing the lawn at the weekend and the aliens landed in my garden and my plans to write my Congregation piece got scuppered.   To be honest, at first I thought it was the low autumn sun playing tricks on my eyes but it was definitely a little space ship although as luck would have it, the first thing he asked of me was “Take me to your leader”!  Ironic given my plans for writing on the topic but a little problematic as I had no idea who he was referring to.  Sure where was I going to find a decent leader in the garden, or anywhere else for that matter.  Anyway we got chatting and it turns out his space ship wiring got crossed with a time travelling Delorean and he was in the wrong era altogether.  It turns out he was looking for Spartacus.

I tried to explain there was a timing issue but he was quite insistent that Spartacus was the man and  despite much trying on my part to redirect him it seems alien men won’t listen to directions from women either!  So I had to take him into the house and we googled it.  I showed him what we had by way of political and business leaders.  He was none too impressed but sure would you blame him.  Mark Zuckerberg’s a pretty pathetic looking sight when you’ve a roman gladiator in mind and in fairness the politicians weren’t up to much either.  It was all a very embarrassing and sorry state of affairs.

But god love him, he’d come a long way and I didn’t want to send him back on an empty stomach or empty handed so I offered him a cup of tea and a scone before I sent him packing.  (Thank god I’d some scones left over from baking that morning – did I mention the bishop was here last week and he told me my scones were ‘fluffy’!  High praise indeed I reckon.)  He’s a grand lad, the alien, not the bishop (although he’s perfectly nice too, he’s from Cork) and we got chatting.  I said that if he liked we could at least watch the movie Spartacus.  I hadn’t seen it in years and sure you can’t beat a bit of Kirk Douglas.  Camile Thai has just opened in Mullingar too so it was a grand opportunity to go wild and get a takeway.

Now after the movie I found I’d accidentally landed on a football match on the telly.   Football. You know me, I haven’t a sodding clue about football but yer man, my little friend was agog at the whole thing.  But this is a crucial point in the story.  The clincher as it happens.  Man U were playing. Now I may not know much about football but you would need to have lived under a rock (or be an alien) not to have heard of Marcus Rashford.  Now there’s a leader I said to him. He’s a campaigner against racism, homelessness and child hunger.  He has a vision and ideas for how the world can be better for his community and country and he is putting his own voice, actions and energy into making real change. Now there’s a fellow you could follow.  Isn’t that what a leader is I said, someone you would follow!  Never mind Spartacus, Marcus is the real deal.

With that he was out the door but not without taking the last of the Singapore Noodles  (I am not happy about that!).   He’s probably half way to Manchester by now.  What am I saying? The speed of him, he’s probably half way home by now, assuming he didn’t get stuck in the traffic at Felixstowe.  Isn’t it an awful mess since Brexit?

Anyway, it all turned out okay.  He’ll go back to his people and tell them we’ve got 23 year olds with a moral compass pointing to compassion, a bank balance they’d rather use to feed school children than splash on cars and a voice that can speak the truth to the twats whose idea of a moral compass is a rusty cockerel atop a wonky weather vane spinning in a hurricane!

To be honest, when I think of it, its abit of a shame there was no boxing on the telly.  I could have sent him off in search of Kellie Harrington although she’d hate all the fuss but we can’t have the aliens thinking all the leaders are men!  We’ve had enough of that around here.

Anyway, I’ll do my best to get a submission in soon.  The dog didn’t exactly eat my homework but the alien did eat my noodles!

All the best,



On the subject of noodles, my four ‘takeaways’ from this piece are served in side-order portions to the left of this many body article.  For a less salty interpretation of my thoughts on leadership please, if you can, take the time to read them too.

Submission by Alastair Herbert for #cong21 titled Taking the Lead from the Followers

Taking the Lead from the Followers #3 #cong21


 We all have a tendency towards grandiosity, but the truth is we can’t all be leaders. Leaders’ lessons are full of fibs, forgotten mistakes and photo-shopped memories. Sports people who are consulted on leadership can’t even transfer their skills to another sport, let alone to organisations.

The people who really make things happen are followers. But us followers definitely need good leadership to be at our best. How do we discover a lot about good leadership if we can’t learn much from leaders, themselves? By abandoning top-down leadership analysis and asking followers what makes good or bad leaders.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The cult of leadership by studying leaders doesn’t deliver
  2. There are a lot more followers than leaders
  3. Politics and business succeeds by knowing their end-users
  4. We’ll learn more about leadership by studying followers

About Alastair Herbert:

I’m the founder of Linguabrand, an insights and strategy consultancy. Our deep-listening robot, Bob, measures brand differentiation and consumer psychology. This helps our clients position their brand to difference while connecting their comms to customers’ deeper needs. We’re based in the UK but work around the world.

Contacting Alastair Herbert:

You can follow Alastair on Twitter, LiguaBrand or Email.

Submission by Alastair Herbert for #cong21 titled Taking the Lead from the Followers

By Alastair Herbert

We all have a tendency towards grandiosity. The hypnotherapy surfacing an everyday person’s past existence as Cleopatra. That glow of pride when our family history reveals some tenuous connection to nobility. The slightly mysterious, adventurer great-grandfather we’re proud to call our own.

We instinctively seem to want to rise above our own ordinariness. Is that why so many people seem to be striving to be someone at the top? To be the person who leads others to greater things?

Biographies of high-profile business people are scoured for approaches that can be replicated. Sports managers have people flocking to hear the secrets behind their considerable success.

But I believe the cult of leadership by studying leaders doesn’t deliver.

Leaders’ lessons are full of fibs, forgotten mistakes and photo-shopped memories. That’s just human nature. Luck, favourable circumstances and the contribution of others are elbowed away, making more room to show off their remarkable perspicacity and razor-sharp decision-making skills.

As for those leading sports managers… Where’s the football manager who’s now running an F1 team? Or the cricket coach who’s made a name for themselves in rugby? As a sports fan, I can’t think of a single one of them that’s successfully transferred their skills to another sport. Their leadership and man-management abilities just don’t work beyond their narrow discipline. So why does this myth of sports leadership continue? Because there’s a pact between business and sport – business people pretend there are lessons to be learnt simply as a way of meeting their heroes.

The reality is we can’t all be leaders.

And that’s good. Because the people who really make things happen are the ordinary people – the vast majority of us.

But us followers definitely need good leadership to be at our best. A consultant friend for health and local authorities believes leadership is the single biggest difference between effective and poorly-run organisations.

How do we discover a lot about good leadership if we can’t learn much from leaders, themselves? Well, the most successful politicians understand their voters. Growing businesses exert a lot of effort understanding their customers. So perhaps knowing what makes good leaders should be about understanding us – the followers, the ordinary people?

As followers, what do we need from our leaders?’

‘Does every follower need the same sort of leadership?’

Let’s throw away our delusions of grandeur and abandon top-down leadership analysis. We’ll find better answers by asking ourselves some simple leading questions.