Every zealot is by nature a follower
They seek those who are willing to lead
Yet this is a kind of leadership without discipline
It is leadership by assumed righteousness
It is leadership by those who, through words and deeds, know no fault
Such leaders never waver in their interpretation of truth
They never question the means by which they apply their beliefs
They never question their own faith
They never admit they may be wrong
And through this they prove time and again
That they are.
Such leaders are by nature vainglorious. They are always certain of their own righteousness, or at the very least in the righteousness of their belief system. To the vainglorious, their perception of truth is the only perception that matters. They are often incredulous at the mere questioning of their beliefs or methods. It is difficult, if not impossible, for them to consider any point of view that differs from their own as credible.
It begins with vanity, which can be the fuel by which one rises to power. Indeed, one must have faith in oneself in order to rise to a position of prominence, but often that faith grows beyond self-confidence. True self-confidence is marked by one not threatened by ideas and beliefs different from one's own. It is an entirely different animal when one sounds the horn of their own ideology while seeking to cast out or destroy all others. Vanity leads into the river of self-righteousness, and the self-righteous have no use for those whose do not form a chorus of agreement.
Zealots are drawn to such individuals, providing they trumpet ideas and methods the zealots support or are willing to support. Without leaders, zealots are but yapping dogs making noise in an open yard. The vainglorious leader not only brings the charisma that is locked to his or her vanity, but also promises glory as a result of actions to be taken in accordance with beliefs and ideas. They dismiss doubt, and by doing so give the zealot faith that words and thoughts will be carried through into action and bring results, that there will be no retreat, and there will be no room for doubt.
For this reason you must doubt yourself every day.
In a world where doubt and self-questioning is seen as a weakness of character, the vainglorious reign supreme. They think in terms of results, of building blocks towards a goal that is considered worthy of any sacrifice and any price. The end is justified by any and all means, or at least those means that can be sold as such to the zealots who follow.
The vainglorious leader will surround him or herself with those who will sound off in agreement almost automatically and dispatch critics or unbelievers with an arsenal of faulty logic tied directly to the beliefs of the group. Those beliefs will be accepted as truth rather than opinion or standard and arguments will be made based on this. The beliefs and intentions of the vainglorious are never less than honorable truth.
From the vanity will come the sense that actions are taken for the good of one's "people" rather than as fulfillment of the desires of the vanity of absolute belief. That vanity drives them to aspire to a level of greatness that parallels immortality, for they believe they will be remembered lovingly long after they have gone for the accomplishments of their zealotry. They will be remembered for dealing down the non-believers they label as enemies, and they take comfort in knowing that history rewards victors above all else.
The vainglorious are kings and queens among zealots, for they are able to carry into action the ideas and beliefs of those who trumpet their causes. They are absolved and validated by those who support and believe in them, eventually becoming the cause in themselves, for their vanity makes them one with the ends they pursue. The followers, in turn, feed off that vanity, for it is easy to throw undying loyalty to an individual than it is to put it behind a cause or a belief. Sometimes the goals of the zealots become merely a shadow of the vainglorious who leads them into battle, whether that battle is literal or figurative.
In the process, the vainglorious leader brings chaos to the land, dividing the believers from the non-believers, creating anxiety amongst the dissenters, who are often driven to find their own vainglorious leaders to counter the growing power of zealots who rally to a cause they cannot endorse. Harmony is destroyed when leaders trumpet a singular truth and grant no safe harbor to dissent. The vainglorious admit no error, and by whatever means possible will justify missteps and mistakes made in the pursuit of an end. The best will convince their followers these errors were not errors at all but merely steps that needed to be taken in the pursuit of a glorious end.
The vainglorious have given in to the very depths of temptation and live within the belly of the beast. They accept that chaos, suffering, death and destruction are necessary to achieve desired ends. You will know them by their eyes, for when they are questioned, there will be a reflection in the eyes that lacks humility. The reflection will look back at you as if you must be insane or horribly mistaken for questioning their actions or intentions. This is how you will know they have been consumed and are now one with the beast that is chaos. The desire for power and prestige has given them over and sold their humanity in exchange. Only confusion and indignation come in response to those who question their righteousness. They are no longer capable of considering the mere possibility that their beliefs or actions are not inspired by absolute truth and justified by a sense of universal righteousness. The ends they are driven towards are all that truly matters and eventually no sacrifice will be too great if it helps in reaching those ends.
Their power can be hypnotic, but you can avoid being drawn to them if you remember that everyone is right within their own perspective of reality. Neither the zealot nor the vainglorious can even consider this concept for they see only the one truth. Those who do not fall in line and accept the one truth are obstacles, or misguided imbeciles too foolish to accept the one truth. Those who fall in line and march are able to see and share in their truth. Only the followers are worthy of the promised glory to follow.
The beast known as chaos recruits the vainglorious, tempting them with power, presitige and immortality to take up the reigns. The vainglorious brings the zealots together, giving them music they can rally behind. Only those who question can offer a counterpoint, but sometimes the voices are too few and too quiet to stop the machinations of the beast and the kings and queens who are no more than his vainglorious pawns.
One day it may be too late for any opposition to make a difference and the war of the zealots will bring chaos to complete and unquestioned power. Look for the signs of the vainglorious in the leaders of your perceived enemies as well as in your own leaders, and eventually you will find you have no enemy. You only have zealots fighting for their own interpretation of truth, and yet in the end they all fight for the same master.