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All of Us Can Lead

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Central and Southern North America Pre-World Conference, April 2017

In RC we have our own idea of leadership. We have a particular structure. We have Reference positions. When people come into RC, they are often restimulated by the idea of leadership. That can take a long while to resolve. Some Communities are still in that struggle.

Distresses get attached to anything called leadership. We live in an oppressive society. We are supposed to do what we are told, and leaders generally do what they want for themselves, for their own reasons. Little thought is given to who we are, what we want, or what we think.

In RC we try to listen to each other. We try to figure out what will work for everybody. We know it will take a long time to fully achieve, but we will get there, and we’ll keep going on imperfectly in the meantime.


Being a leader is not the same as being a Reference Person. There are confusions about this. Distresses about leadership cause some of the confusion, but there are also historical reasons for it. When we started out, there were no leadership positions. Then my father appointed Reference Persons. Those individuals usually had more experience than anybody else, but sometimes they didn’t. We just needed somebody to play that role.

Reference Persons are not necessarily leaders when they start. They are Reference Persons; they are required to carry out a limited number of functions. But they came to be regarded as the leaders, so the two got tangled. And they are still tangled in the Community.

Often Reference Persons are very good leaders. They had to become that, because nobody else was able to lead at the time. Being the Reference Person forced them to learn how to lead. On the other hand, often Communities are waiting for the Reference Person to actually lead.

In RC we think that all of us can lead, that we just have to learn how and discharge some distress. Every RC Community needs lots of people leading. All of you have been around RC long enough to be able to lead people in many different ways. We would like you to do that.

My father thought that if there were a lot of fundamentals classes, the Communities would grow continuously and indefinitely. It’s more complex than that. He hoped the Communities would grow fast enough that we would continually need more leaders and Reference Persons—that growth would provide continual leadership opportunities. That didn’t happen as expected.

Part of the reason is that as Reference Persons developed into good leaders, it confused newer RCers about leading. They waited for the more experienced people to lead. But everybody in this room is in better shape [condition] and better able to lead than almost all the people in this room were when they became leaders.

You may not know how little we started with. It made for all sorts of confusions and interesting messes. But we built something. We had to take initiative, we had to take responsibility, we had to go out and do it. There were no feelings of being left out—there was too much to do. We learned how to build things that way. It’s a wonderful situation to be in: not waiting for anybody, because there isn’t anyone else. You’re not in doubt about whether or not you should move. If you want a Community, you have to move. A lot of the leaders in this room learned RC that way. It was good, but it can’t be the only way to learn.

People need practice leading. Being a Reference Person sometimes helps with that, but it hasn’t always. Leading is not about an appointment or a structure. We live in a society in which people have distresses about a title meaning something. They can look at the title rather than noticing someone’s abilities.

We need you to lead. How do we separate referencing from leading? How do we lead in different ways? There are situations in which it doesn’t make sense for someone to lead in RC. But most people aren’t leading not because of real reasons but because it’s restimulating. That shouldn’t be what determines our lives. So our feelings about leadership are something to look at.

I never wanted this position. (laughter) What my distress makes me long for is to clear a path for somebody else, to do anything necessary to get everything out of that person’s way so that she or he can move and make things happen. That’s the role I like. But I was the Alternate International Reference Person when my father died, and I had agreed to step into his role—not because of the Community but because of him.

I had taken the Alternate Reference Person position to back him up, so that he could do everything he could with a safe place to turn to. When he died, I was committed to being International Reference Person for two years, until the next World Conference, and I had to figure out if it made sense for me. It did—it was the best thing for me and for the Communities—but that didn’t mean that I felt like I wanted to do it. It didn’t mean that I didn’t have distresses in the way that had me hankering [longing] for something else far, far away.

But we don’t get a big life by following our frozen longings. We can get stuck in a funny [strange] little whirlpool that way. We have to challenge the feelings and try things. When we do, we get to think afresh and see new things. We get to figure out a bigger, better life for ourselves and for those around us. I understand the hesitancy—the feeling that you don’t want to, it won’t work, it’s too much, everybody will be disappointed, and so on. I also know that you have to challenge that, and that if you do, you’ll get a bigger life.

This is important for our Communities, because each of you has a different perspective. Each of you knows RC a little differently from everybody else. We need all of our perspectives reflected in the Communities, to help new people learn. The more facets of RC they get exposed to, the more complete is their picture of it. Then they can construct their own version of it. The more raw material they get, the better their picture becomes.

I’m not saying that you, the Reference Person, should quit. I’m asking you to consider that you’re a good leader and that you don’t need to be a Reference Person to lead. Not everybody needs to be in that position, though it is an important one. It would be nice to have a lot of people taking responsibility for the Community.

I want everyone who has ever led to continue, but that doesn’t mean we stay frozen the way we are. We need to keep thinking about the issues surrounding leading and not just hope that growth will solve them for us.


Something that gets in way of leading is that it takes time. And you have no time. And it will be worse next year. And when somebody cancels a session and you have a free hour, you feel liberated. (laughter) Well, that’s a confusion from this stage of capitalism.

The only way capitalism can keep itself barely upright is by exploiting people more and more fully, filling their lives with things that are profitable for the owning class. The only way it can keep people from forming alliances and radically changing society is by keeping them so occupied and restimulated that they don’t have time or attention for it. That is what’s going on [happening], and you can’t let it go on, which means doing something that feels difficult.

The easiest thing in your life to give up is RC. You just don’t do it, that’s all. Some Co-Counselors will make a noise at you for a while, but they will give up; they will get discouraged. (laughter) Society is forcing you to do everything. We’re not forcing you, so it seems easier to trim this edge. But this is where your biggest losses will be. If you don’t get that session, life gets harder.

I have seen people stop having sessions for various reasons, some of them good—travel, and things like that—and they enjoy life for about a week. Then things start closing in; the restimulations build. They know it, and they can hold it off for a while. But then things get harder. It reminds me of the question some people don’t know how to answer: “When will you be done with RC?” (laughter) It’s not a bad question. But the answer is simply, “When it doesn’t benefit me.” And for me, and I hope for you, the benefit is there solidly, and there is more and more benefit. I get clearer and clearer about things.

This is a process that benefits us continually. That’s what you have to remember when you feel pushed. When I get a session or two, I am so much more efficient and so much more effective. I don’t stay still, feeling bad about all the things I have to do, wasting my time milling around [moving about aimlessly]. I can go ahead and do things, and think, and make things happen.

I have no solution to the fact that it takes time. It does. But it’s some of the most beneficial time, for you and for all of us, that you can spend.

Tim Jackins

(Present Time 188, July 2017)

Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00