That Something Else Better

I saw this thing from John T. Spencer consisting of the first two columns below, 'Management' and 'Leadership' respectively, and while I get that 'Leadership' is supposed to be something better and to be aspired to, it left me short. So I think there's a need to characterize another attitude, one that is neither 'Management' or 'Leadership', which gets to the core of a more ideal state.

ManagementLeadershipThat something else better that isn't management or leadership
AuthorityBased upon titleBased upon earned trustNone; offers an example which may be followed or not
QuestionsQuestions are viewed as a threat to authorityEncourages questions to develop an ethical understandingAsked frequently
The FrameworkProceduralRelationalEngaged and connected
Rules / BoundariesBased upon conformityBased upon an ethical, philosophical conceptBased on respect for others
ProceduresStandardizedPersonalizedAdapted as needed
InnovationDiscouraged if it challenges the status quoProvides a vision that inspires othersSecondary to creativity, freedom and exploration
SubmissionForced: based upon a fear Voluntarily: submitting to another's strengths to protect one's weaknessesThere is no submission; exchanges are mutual and of mutual value
MotivationExtrinsicIntrinsicNot necessary
The ResultsBehave externally but rebel internally (or when no one is looking)Empathetic, ethical thinkers who want to do what is rightCooperative environment populated by creative and expressive individuals who see respect for and service to others as the highest good


  1. I appreciate that the word "leadership" makes you bristle, because in the past it has had a strong authoritarian/egoist connotations. But when I look at your third column (I'm assuming that is your take) I actually don't see huge differences in what you are saying and how I hear John Spenser's "leadership" column.

    Dave Cormier caused the same reaction in me a few years back at Northern Voice when he described what I was doing to help catalyze Moosecamp as "leadership" - I bristled at the term, as the whole idea was that moosecamp was that it was a self-organizing unconference, but it was true, without someone taking a first few steps, the rest might not happen. We settled on "leaderless leadership" or "network leadership" as a compromise.

    The important thing, I think, is that it is radically different than pro forma organization and management, and while it is _enabled_ by networks and new forms of interconnection, it is not simply a fait accompli. Without real effort by many (all?), it is entirely possible for older power forms to persist, and this I think is the main complaint against network utopians, that they promote a vision of emergent organization that oftentimes makes it seem like it will simply just happen as a result of the interconnectivity.

  2. I like your third column and I think it touches on something the chart couldn't get (but I actually believe). It's the paradox of servant-leadership. I created the chart not with the classroom in mind, but with my own kids in mind. I want to be a voice in their lives. There are times when I need to take the lead and they need to listen - not out of compliance, but out of a trust in me. I think that was the attitude I was trying to get at. I think, for example, that humility and service are closely aligned and that personalized and "adapted as needed" are virtually identical.

    I think where we vary is on a few of the topics like submission. I will submit to others (mostly mutually) who will protect my weaknesses and help me build on strengths. This is true of any leader I choose to follow. But it has to be trust-based.

  3. "That something else better that isn't management or leadership" column does not contain all the variants of "leadership". Indeed, the "leadership" column only is one such description, and I am not sure that humility comes to mind when thinking of attitude - it may for some but not all leadership.
    This work counters how we tend to narrow leadership down to the heroic or quasi-heroic role and so is useful to that extent - I would add that leadership can be much more varied than each of these descriptions.

  4. Thanks for rocking the boat and another valuable insight Stephen.

    I expect you're using "an example" in the sense of Einstein's famous quote. But I wonder if "a model" isn't more appropriate in the context of the something else for Authority.

  5. I'm hesitant to use the word 'model' because of the technical meanings of the term. But in the ordinary sense of the term I would have no objection to its use instead of 'example'.

  6. I think we are obsessed with leadership when we should be paying more attention to following, or fellowship. Your description above fits. And it is less a model and more exemplified by people, experientially imbedded in their social contexts.


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