How many leaders can one organization handle? We talk about empowering staff, but who leads, who follows, who manages, who does the work?
Once someone is designated or selected as “leader” — a real or implied hierarchy is created. This individual has “power over” others within the organization. This role may, or may not, have defined authority to administer, supervise and manage projects or programs — typically in a top down manner. An individual designated “chair” or “project manager” may hold a privileged positioning that can be maneuvered into political advantage.
Just as soon as we call someone the leader, Professor Jeffery Nielsen, of Westminister College of Salt Lake City, says we have created a rank-based context that defines being a leader as having “power-over” subordinates and peers.
As Professor Nielsen, author of The Myth of Leadership, such circumstances create “a rank-based culture where the leaders possess special privilege to speak and the followers possess an unreciprocated obligation to listen; where the leaders are entitled to monopolize information, control decision-making, and command obedience, thus establishing a culture of secrecy and inauthentic communication. The myth of leadership justifies an organization, whether political, religious, or corporate where:
The leader speaks and the followers listen
The leader controls information and the followers can only guess
The leader knows and the followers only have opinions
The leader decides and the followers just do what they’re told
The leader directs resources and the followers must make do with less and less
The leader commands and the followers obey
The leader is superior and the followers are inferior”
If an individual is ordained as an organizational leader — in a marketplace of empowered workers — will conflict and confrontation be unavoidable?
More to follow…