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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Leadership is outdated

RE:Be wary of political leaders who follow the followers, Randal Denley, Ottawa Citizen, 20 Nov 2014

Randall I have to heartily disagree with the notion that the grassroots is not a unique repository of wisdom. They are when you consider them collectively and especially when the notion of grassroots includes everyone. The challenge for wannabe leaders today is in figuring how to harness that knowledge, together with all their resources and commitment.

Any organization that concentrates responsibility for innovation at the top, holds its capacity to change hostage and guarantees its irrelevance. Such an organization disempowers people. It fosters conflict instead of cooperation; group think instead of innovation. This old style bureaucracy has to die. At this time in history when education is ubiquitous and networks exist to connect everyone, the leadership myth that leaders have all the answers or all the resources or all the power -- that they are in charge --  is just simply farcical. From a social coordination point of view, leadership is an antiquated and literally dumb mechanism.

Plus it is not leaders that create followers but the other way around. And followers will follow if they perceive a) that the leader is ethical and b) that the leader is effective. There is more than enough daily evidence to suggest the presence of unethical leaders. How does the public tell one from another? And the complexity of issues underscores how much leaders are not in charge and not effective. So why follow? It is no coincidence that as the mantle of leadership has been continually eroded in the last half century, public confidence in all leaders (in government, business and the NFP sector) has steadily declined. In the 70s public confidence in political leaders stood at 70%; today it's around 9%. The emperor has no clothes.

Randall you are holding on to a model of social organization that is outdated. What we need today is a mechanism that can reach out to the populace and engage them in the many conversations that are meaningful to them. We need the many perspectives in the population to come together -- not to fight in competition but to create something bigger. As a journalist you know the value of such conversations. Every community is the product of the conversations held among its members. Those who might have been leaders in the past need to become stewards of those conversations, bringing people together, facilitating their collective learning and their collective decision making and action. We have the technology tools for this, even now, and more are being created. The really big idea today is to evolve a new system of social coordination that reflects today's reality and not the reality of 150 years ago.

Unfortunately there is no party and certainly no leader even contemplating this. How much public scorn must be heaped upon them before they do?