I have worked with various groups and organisation and am often confused about dealing with the idea leadership. On one side I value when I or some one who is taking more initiative and is contributing the group with our leadership and make things happen but at times when I or those leaders make decisions where all voices don’t seem to have equal or equivalent space for disagreements, it is disturbing for me. That’s the time either there is de-motivation in the group, some people leave or there are fireworks and fights!
Some times the one who began as a servant leader, becomes an authority figure and people kind of negotiate and work around him or her, even manipulate to get their favors and look for his or her consent for everything and give away their power and creativity. Interestingly I have also done the same when I have led things or been a victim of it, so its not a blame on any one but an inquiry to create resilient ‘power with’ and efficient systems in our communities.
An NVC workshop in Chennai
While talking about these issues with James Priest in Devon, UK, I got some clarity which I want to share.
In a group or an organisaton when we don’t decide how things will be decided we often have a default mode and some times there is one person with initiative who does things and people join him or her and form a group and may call it a ‘movement’. This group also imagines that they share power and even believes that there is no boss and most of them have distaste for top down leadership structures. The leaders hate being seen as a ‘boss’. All this works well in fair weather but at times of crisis when there are some crucial decisions to be made one person or the one who seemingly or in a real way has some power and privilege in the group is heard more and affects the decisions.
With the staff of Digital Empowerment Foundation in Delhi
I understood that when the leader decides some thing which is in tune with my idea of vision of the group I was alright with it. But when they took a decision which involved a certain value or deeper policy of the group which I don’t think we had agreed upon and to see that person make a call on it triggered me. I realize it’s a confusion in the groups where we don’t verbalizing our values and our agreements about ways of meeting those values but assuming that we have an agreement on them. We do this because we don’t think its important to talk of how we decide when we are so busy making decisions as we have the urgency to change the world. In the process we launch are sitting on the same old patterns of relationships which have created the world that we are wanting to change.
In the book Reinventing Organisations, that I just read recently, the Author Frederic Laloux says that the relationships that we have in our organizations is the reflection of the world we are living in. I believe that in the Marxian sense too it’s the production structures that create production relations and with that there is the super structure. So the way we relate in our groups or even progressive movements is connected to the rest of the world and so is our language also which is so much embedded in it. So I too believe if we want to change the world we need to change our ways of relating each other and need to find skillful and efficient ways of doing it. I am finding some answers in Sociocracy where we need to start with talking about our Values, Mission and Aims and see if we as a group can have a common understanding of them.
In other words there is a functional decision for which one person has been given the power to decide upon but then the person confuses that they have power to make decisions which have a bearing on the policy of the group and do it without the agreement. Its dangerous to confuse functional power with the power to make policy decisions. Its even OK that in emergency the leader makes such decision but are they then willing to share and discuss it with the group and make sure they have agreement on the policy ramifications of their actions. This is the place where we need to look at in our movements and be watchful of to not be lazy and unconsciously give the power to make policy decisions to one person. More so, I feel sad for those leaders who do it as when people don’t like their work they are matter of gossiping and talked behind their back and when people have the courage to go against them they are overthrown. I guess its important for the well being of the whole group that we are watchful on how we decide things in our movements or organisations.
Offering a workshop to a group of organic farmers on ways of ‘power with’ decision making in Wales.
I believe that most of the groups who even hold the dream of a sustainable world also don’t spend much time on such questions. When things go wrong they struggle and then either some people leave or the leader is made a scapegoat, blamed and dumped. Either way the and groups break down
I don’t see it as a problem of people but the problem of the lack of structures to work through all this stuff. I would love to be more careful of such issues in the future in the groups that I work with and would like to bring this stuff to light. I am feeling more relaxed about working with challenges in the groups that I am engaged in.
I am glad I am learning about all this through NVC or Restorative Circles or Sociocracy. Grateful to all the opportunities that are coming my way and all my learning from my ‘mistakes’ in the past when I was in Leadership position and made all the messes are also coming in great use.