Friday, October 21, 2005

Missing, a Follower.

We are blessed with many, many definitions and models of leadership but have we generally become victims of our history and permitted it to intrude into many of these, sanctioning the omission of a follower?

Our models suffer from a linguistic awkwardness because the word leadership focuses our attention on leading and it has only been in recent years that the word 'followership' has been given the legitimacy provided by inclusion in a few dictionaries. Then there is the awkwardness arising because these models tend to deny the reality of our experience that everyone in association with others and particularly in a formal organization is both a leader and a follower. So, if as a culture, we have not acknowledged the evidence of our own experience and reinforced our denial with supporting language, it is no wonder that there is mystery and confusion around leadership.

My strong suspicion is that our tribal roots still pervade our un/consciousness. In a world that assumes scarcity and where competition prevails, leading has historically been associated with winning and following with loosing and of course no-one wants to be a looser. This goes a long way to explain the early chaos around the hurricane Katrina emergency and the 'team' struggles in The Apprentice, let alone the corporate scandals of recent years. Behavior that is repeated despite its obvious ill effects is generally called an addiction. This is not to say that all our leadership models support addictive behavior but some may, surely unintentionally, enable it.

The good news is that Warren Bennis describes followership, Jim Collins identifies the humility component of leaders of 'great' corporations and Beck and Cowan describe the green and purple memes of open system consciousness, just as examples. Then, fortunately, there are the many practitioners of a 'new' leadership who together are shifting the cultural center of gravity with behaviors that comprehend a leadership that is about something more than being in front.

P.S. Less than 24 hours after posting this I discovered Dee Hock's comprehensive article, Leader-Follower. I came to this via Joi Ito's piece, Open Source Leadership.

No comments: