Spread Leadership

There is a significant movement afoot, reflecting a radically new way of thinking about leader-ship. Although people often refer to this movement as a shift to “leaderless groups,” it actually is about the emergence of “leaderful groups.”

Leaderful groups emerge as high-performance teams, peer supervision groups, intentional communities, communities of practice, wisdom circles, dialogue groups, and grassroots groups. They also emerge in response to crises.

Instead of looking to a “Lone Ranger” to solve problems and provide direction, a leaderful group operates more like a jazz ensemble. The players improvise around a common theme, entering into a sensitive and synchronized interplay – even anticipating each other's moves. Synergy develops, and the whole becomes far more than the sum of the parts.

How can you create the conditions for leaderful teams?

° Establish leadership and governance processes through pluralistic, egalitarian, open-ended exchanges among peers, not by a sole leader prescribing values, norms, and rules.

° Value diversity of backgrounds, learning styles, and approaches since diversity is the key to creative and wise problem-solving.

° Rotate authority and leadership according to members' expertise and the nature of the tasks. Balance tasks with process. Pay attention to how members build and sustain group spirit, collaboration, and the group “field.” Speak and work from your heart and demonstrate commitment to others' well-being.

° Develop the intuitive skills that foster “group wisdom,” which transcends the sum of the perspectives of the individual members. Take responsibility for expressing your own ideas, without competing with others and without conforming to group pressures for uniformity. The development of group wisdom distinguishes leaderful groups from groups that tend toward the “lowest common denominator” and creativity-stifling “groupthink.”

° Stress partnership and collaboration, rather than domination and control. Rather than issuing directives or preformed opinions, work to develop shared vision.

° Make your work together a spiritual or meditative practice. Find opportunities to experience (rather than merely intellectualize) your connection with each other and with nature.

What could it mean to your group to develop shared leadership and group wisdom? The mutual support of collaborative groups helps members address complex challenges that can feel overwhelming when faced alone. The synthesizing of diverse perspectives tends to surface aspects of problems that might otherwise be overlooked. Because all group members participate in discovering a solution, they and their constituencies support it, rather than sabotage it. Essential, root causes are more likely to be dealt with, and at that deep level, problems are literally re-solved (resolved).


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