The Limits of ‘Leadership’

Facilitating Transformation & Spirit

Some ideas at the heart of The Conscious Consulting School

I think any conception of leadership that focuses on a single individual (or discussions about ideal individualized leadership traits, characteristics, or styles) is going to be unhelpful and distracting to the work described above. Because the traditional ways of thinking about leadership are too often variants of patriarchy – which values control, predictability, measurement & overseeing, and holding others accountable – all under the banner of security and the promise of future reward for behavioral compliance. It encourages ego in individuals and what we often refer to as ‘politics’ in groups. And none of that is great for generating spaces of creativity and collaboration.

The idea that ‘the leader’ is the source of the vision, the culture and my motivation has led to a whole industry dedicated to keeping leaders developed, coached and at top of their game. That’s all very lovely for the leaders who are the recipient of all that attention, of course, but it is not the answer to our deeper problems of community, governing and society.

One sign that traditional ways of thinking about leadership as something held at the top by one or a few individuals in power are insufficient for an interconnected and fast-moving world, is how often we end up being disappointed in our leaders. Because that happens a lot. We raise up our new leaders on a wave of expectation and hope. And then we get disappointed and disaffected when they can’t deliver.

Another sign is how often we create a new adjective to put in front of the word ‘leadership’: eg visionary, transformational, charismatic, values-based, fierce etc etc as if we aren’t quite getting the leadership we were looking for. We aren’t and we never will. We can’t get enough of what we don’t need.

So for me the question is not:

‘Who is the leader?’

but

‘Where is leadership?’

 

(Answer: leadership emerges between us in response to a collective need or desire)

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