Thursday, October 11, 2007

leadership: consensus style or hierarchical style

I was once challenged by my mentor, “Leadership is real. It’s in nature. It happens everywhere. Some lead and others follow.” He was referring to strong leadership of a more hierarchical nature. Leaders are champions, in his mind. Yet this was why I asked him to mentor me. He was a challenge and a perceived threat to my way of thinking. I didn’t like his style much. It was so institutional. So top down. A friend of mine and I joked around about his strong style. We called him the general. It’s not surprising, since he was in the marines before he took this desk job. But, I reasoned, this is how half the world works, I would do well to learn to interact with it and learn to love the people who operate in these styles of leadership and being.

So I rose to the challenge and began looking around in nature for non-hierarchical leadership. Geese flying south is non-hierarchical or, rather, a sharing of leadership. All able geese take their turn at the helm. And all have a common understanding of destination/ “the goal”. This is just one example of a distribution of power/responsibility leadership style. Its opposite extreme is the hierarchical leadership. Various cultures seem to pick their place on the continuum but I would argue there are elements of both in every culture. There doesn’t seem to be much information or research on leadership styles within other cultures, however, the differences are observed within our own culture in dialogs about gender specific leadership styles.. One style is stereotypically attributed to the feminine and the later the masculine. I would prefer to refer to the differences as consensus vs. hierarchy leaderships styles. There is a leadership theorist, Mary Parker Follett who popularizes a distribution of power management style. Circular theory of power is the theory upon which she bases her consensus style of leadership. It turns the “power-over” of hierarchy leadership into “power with.” You can read about it here. Thanks to a new friend, Mr. Kriss who is doing his dissertation on her leadership style.

Some questions to respond to.
Which style is more Christ-like: hierarchy or consensus? Is this even a good question? Are there ways to make either style Christ centered? What are the pitfalls (sins) of either style? Are there any other sites out there that address these questions? Has anyone seen any great consensus leadership in practice?


graham old said...

off-topic, so feel free to delete this, but your link is wrong. It should be:

espíritu paz said...


Eugene said...

I'm reminded of Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) - he says the role of the leader is to empower those whom he leads.

My pastor is one of the best people I've met for drawing everybody to fuse their desires, building trust and consensus in the process.

(you can thank Javan Lapp for sending me here)

espíritu paz said...

Thanks Eugene,
Wondering if there are distinctly Mennonite Amish themes that we can highlight as instructive or helpful to leadership theory.

kimberly said...

hey waz up