Growing Leadership in the Mid-West – Context

This page provides the context for the ‘Growing Leadership in the Mid-West’ inquiry, of which the survey is the first part.

The purpose of this survey is to ask some questions about leadership, then see what comes up, and what the respondents are most interested in doing next, (if anything).

You can take the Survey here.

Some notes below provide some context for the inquiry.

  • Although the population of the Mid-West (however you wish to define it, geographically) is not large, there is sufficient diversity such that everyone reading this will probably have:
    • a different way they think about leadership,
    • a different way in which they act like a leader, and
    • a different reason why they think leadership is important, now.
  • Some words people might associate with leadership include: enterprising, autocratic, servant, facilitative, hero, democratic, emergent, spirited, magical, charismatic, tough, decisive, pragmatic, visionary, authentic, conensual, strong, values-driven, wise etc.
  • Within that diversity of ideas, experiences  and examples of leadership there are likely to be commonalities. There are likely to be concepts and modes of action that are more and less appropriate to use in the Mid-West, in the year 2009 than were appropriate in the 1880s or even 1980s.
  • If Leadership (e.g. lack or, an inappropriate type etc.) is perceived to be a constraint to growth of a healthy, resilient society, then the questions we ask and work we focus are different than if the constraints and barriers to us avoiding crises and realising opportunities were technological (e.g. we don’t have the right tools), natural (e.g. we don’t have the resources we need). Many presume that all the limitations to a better world are ‘out there’, when actually they may be limitations in our human capacities, our mindsets and our culture.
  • Leadership often isn’t about individuals, as described in the quote below, for that reason. This inquiry (and the inital survey) is open to opinions and suggestions about individuals, teams, organisations and even communities as leaders.

The capacity of individuals to transform their values and perspectives is the primary constraint on how fast organisations [or communities] can be transformed. This translates into leadership capacity and that in turn, for me, means the capacity of individuals to accept that they are members of a community of interdependencies that can only be transformed through collaboration.

Most thinking about leadership emphasises the salience of the exceptional individual who in some sense rescues the collective from confusion; my view of leadership starts with an assumption that democracy is always the best way to decide and collaboration always the best basis for action, but that total democracy and collaboration are almost always problematic. Leadership is, under this assumption, the next best recourse. The legitimacy of an act of leadership rests in the readiness of the actor to fall back into a collective process, and not to allow his or her leadership to concretise into a role.

Roles become reified and leadership becomes oppressive – a form of domination and antithetical to democracy. In practice this means that leadership development for sustainability is a matter of collecting examples of leadership action and testing them for legitimacy, in the process building up images of the leader-as-member and of action-for-collaboration…

Richard Little, Impact DTG, pers. comm. 2009

  • I could write more, but that would probably get boring for all of us. The point of this is to inquire more widely, and see what emerges from many people responding to these questions.
  • Please contribute your thoughts by taking the survey here.

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