Power and Leadership

As I sat at the Health in the Hubs meeting the other night I observed that it was a room full of leaders and wondered what happens when everyone at the table is a leader with their own urgent issues?

I had been thinking about stages of leadership/power lately, which probably already exists and has a name in circles that study this sort of thing. I contemplated how we outgrow (hopefully) certain uses of power and wondered what, ultimately, we are working towards as leaders? This question collided with the previous question today and I have the beginnings of an answer.

Observations on the Stages of Power & Leadership

1 – Might is Right. I am tempted to call this Entry Level. What comes to mind are young men who feel like they can’t walk home at night without a knife. The problem is, the knife is no good if you encounter someone with actual authority, like the police, and it’s no good if you encounter someone with a bigger knife, or two knives. So it’s only good on weaker people in which case you don’t really need it. Many of the weapons in this arsenal are intangibles, like bullying and intimidation. When people boast about their weapons of choice it makes me think they don’t have other tools at their disposal. There can only be one Boss in this scenario, so conquests are perpetual until the Boss is overthrown. Sadly, even at international levels we are still playing games of “My gun is bigger than your gun.”

2 – Authority: Military, Corporate and Religious models use hierarchical authority to designate power and leadership, chiefly because it is efficient. It becomes inefficient (and a pain in the neck) when a person’s authority exceeds their intelligence. (It becomes barbaric when people use their authority to wield their Might is Right.) Authority is the most prevalent form of leadership in our society but I sometimes think that we are only ever one disaster away from falling back into a Might is Right world.

3 – Engaged: The New-School models perceive the untapped potential of people so leaders try to engage them in the quest. It is goal-oriented and favours thinking outside the box, particularly when the resources are all gone and the status-quo is threatened. It is creative and rewarding beyond monetary fulfillment. It is overthrown by Authority (Martial Law) when efficiency (often masked as security) is the priority.

Next is the exciting part – don’t you think?!

4 – Collaboration: This is about recognizing that it is a big world and there is enough pie to go around for everyone. It is about cultivating the leadership qualities in others, however they may emerge. The answer lies in working together, in using everyone’s strengths towards shared goals.

Not only would it work for Neighbourhood Planning Teams, I bet it would work for international affairs as well. I think about bodies like the United Nations perhaps representing the Authority stage and wonder what an Engaged Earth might look like, to say nothing of a world governed by International Collaboration.

I suppose first we have to recognize that many of the goals really are shared.


3 thoughts on “Power and Leadership

  1. I ti attended the Hub meeting last night It seamed they all missed the point of the exercise TO FIND OUT WHAT THE PEOPLE OF NIEGHBOURHOOD FELT Not one suggestion to fix the 3 top concerns was asked they could only agree on 2 things #1 Rebecah’s food was out standing and #2 to close the meeting It seamed to me every one had their own agenda and the fact that no lead pipes have been used in Hamilton snce 1914 we needed the lead for bullits The next meating should have solutions one suggestion is ask the people how they would solve crime, employment, and enviroment Maybe they could start by dressing up on Sundays.
    Fraser McBurney

  2. Interesting musings Rebecca. Some I agree with some I do not. Personally, I think that there will always be some sort of hierarchical structure in our society. Some people just posses the drive and natural leadership to lead while there are plenty of people that will naturally be content with following. And just as in your Authority category there are plenty of people whose ambition exceeds their natural leadership abilities. I’m sure you know the type. The ones that do not have the confidence to take charge of a situation so they become stubborn and un-cooperative just so they can exude some sort of authority over it. They choose not to lead by example since that smacks of commitment. Collaborative power structures, though they empower everyone, also empower these people to make things difficult. Now egos must be stroked before things get going. It’s one thing to have a collaborative effort to decide which pub to go to and it’s another to run long term, budgeted projects. Politics is an area that you can observe this interaction all the time since almost all elected assemblies have a combination of both types. You would think that those assemblies would be full of natural leaders. The problem is that in politics, we have many people who’s resources and connections compensate for their lack of leadership and intelligence. Observe our city council for example.

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