From individual to collective - who can be a good leader?
There’s a lot of talk in the media about leadership, often a lament for its absence.
So what is leadership? And how do we interpret ongoing popular uprisings and protests that punctuate our public life? The Arab Spring? The Hong Kong protests? The rioting in American cities? Public protests in Australia? Are they indicators of descending chaos? Pointers to a lack of leadership? Or hopeful signs of a new emergent form of collective leadership? Or something else again?
What are your thoughts on leadership? Is it important? Why is it important still (if it is)? What makes a good leader? Who can be a leader?
Hit Reply and let me know your thoughts. I’ll report back in the next blog post. And, don’t worry, you can remain anonymous if you wish.
In the meantime, here are a few of my thoughts on leadership.
What makes a leader? Some quotes
“A leader is someone with the right message in the right place at the right time.’
“Some folk are born leaders, some choose leadership, some have leadership thrust upon them.”
“Full many a flower is born to bloom unseen.”
“A leader is someone we look up to.”
“We are evolving into a period where we have greater understanding of collective leadership and how it might work for us.”
The idea of evolutionary leadership
Even though I believe we are evolving into a period where collective leadership will play a key role in decision making, I don’t believe this is an either/or choice. Both will continue to play a part in public and private life. In the following table, you’ll find five contrasting aspects of individual and collective leadership. I’m sure there are more.
Individual leadership is about …
Collective leadership is about …
1. Cultivation of our individual qualities.
1. Still important but additionally we have a human obligation to ensure that our fellow humans also have opportunities to cultivate their individual qualities. We embrace a wider recognition of each person’s unique needs, gifts and contribution.
2. Decision making is typically unilateral (decisions are made by the ‘wisest’ or the ‘strongest’ in the room).
2. Decision making is typically multilateral. Depending on the size and location of the group, everyone contributes ‘wisdom’ and different understandings of ‘strength’ are actively explored and acted upon.
3. The issues on which the leader decides are agreed to be important to both the leader and the group.
3. Issues of importance on which decisions have to be made, are explored at a deeper level. Decisions are expected to embody fundamental understandings of what it is to be a human being.
4. Influence is seen as an important element of leadership. The biggest and greatest leaders have the biggest and greatest influence.
4. Influence and leadership are no longer seen as synonymous. While the concept of good and bad influences is still valid, good leaders are generally regarded as those who wield positive influence. People can be influential without being acknowledge as individual leaders in the conventional sense. .
5. Leaders and followers are seen as two distinct groups of people. Leaders lead and followers follow. ‘Ours not to reason why, ours but to do or die.’ ‘I only work here!’
5. Leaders are a ‘voice’ for the group. When they cease to give voice to their group’s concerns, they cease to be recognised as leading the group.
Let’s have a conversation. …
Have your say. What bits make sense? What bits don’t?
What examples can you give of collective and individual leadership and influence?