Thursday, October 20, 2011

Liberative Leadership and The Implied Potential of the Follower-Leader

Of course, if we can have a leader-follower, why not a follower-leader?

The idea intrinsic to the model "A Vision for Leadership and Collaboration" is that in a healthy process of leading and following the leader and follower roles alternate or are exchanged, and I continue to believe that's a good paradigm. However, if we identify two, momentarily distinct roles, leader-follower and follower-leader, more powerful descriptive possibilities arise. The implications are:

  • As has always been the case in this model, when someone is leading in a healthy fashion, they will inevitably also find themselves following - an involving and participatory action that permits further development of the leadership role and contribution.
  • With the addition of a follower-leader role, not only does the one who is momentarily leading explicitly contain the potential to follow, but the person who is momentarily following, explicitly contains the potential to lead! (Remember how each part of the yin-yang symbol contains a dot having the same color as its counterpart?)
This expanded leader-follower/follower-leader paradigm, portrays the ongoing dialogical relationship between leader and follower in what for the moment I'm calling, a healthy relationship.

This perspective arose while I was reading, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire, 1996, Continuum Publishing (a translation from Spanish, and originally published in 1970). The author offers an alternative to the banking model of education in which teacher and student roles are permanently, hierarchically separated and the teaching process oppressive, the leader investing in delivering his/her information which the student "learns" by valuing and acceptance. Freire's proposal is that we consider teacher-student and student-teacher in a dialogical relationship of mutual learning and liberation!

If mutual learning is the product of the the teacher-student/student-teacher dialog, the question that must be answered to complete the analogy is, "What is the product of the leader-follower/follower-leader dialog?" The best answer that presently comes to mind is "creativity." The paradigm shift provided by the model now becomes very clear. It is from the mechanistic, mutually oppressive roles of leading and following, transformed by dialog into the co-creative and liberating roles of leader-follower and follower-leader.

(Now "health" becomes clear; oppression is unhealthy and liberation is healthy!)

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