Leadership requires community: there is no leader without a follower and there is no leader without a sense of service towards that follower, “Creative leaders accept as a law of human nature that people feel a commitment to a decision in proportion to the extent that they feel that have participated in making it” (Knowles 2005). There is a symbiotic relationship between a leader and his efforts and his followers (or pupils or employees or congregation) and their needs. Only when a leader approaches his people for input and advice can communal growth take place. The worst thing that a leader can do is alienate his followers from a process of decision making that serves their needs.
To wit, “…every organization is also a social system that serves as an instrumentality for helping people meet human needs and achieve human goals. In fact, this is the primary purpose for which people take part in organizations – to meet their needs and achieve their goals – and when an organization does not serve this purpose for them they tend to withdraw from it”(Knowles 2005). If a community is alienated from the effects of leadership, or if the group’s needs are not served either through a leader’s actions or the messages he/she communicates, then the community will withdraw form the leader’s efforts and the community will collapse.
There is a flipside to the leadership dilemma and that is the role of the follower. There is a model follower that Lawrence Kohlberg created. His stages of moral development outline stages that an individual progresses through on a path towards social morality. The model follower falls into stage five, “Stage 5 respondents basically believe that a good society is best conceived as a social contract into which people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all. They recognize that different social groups within a society will have different values, but they believe that all rational people would agree on two points. First, they would all want certain basic rights, such as liberty and life, to be protected. Second, they would want some democratic procedures for changing unfair law and for improving society” (WC Cain 1985). Not only does a leader have to recognize the social contract of community for all, but also, a follower must also subscribe to that ideal. Otherwise, there is no group development or sense of community and there is less appreciation for different value systems entering the community. Furthermore, when there are no democratic procedures for changing group dynamics, roles, or values, then the group will also succumb to the weight of its leader’s (or group’s) arrogance.
There is benefit to recognizing other’s talents. The key is in fostering the sense of individual worth within a group and empowering that worth. THe problem I see, both within a treatment setting and within various organizations, is that leaders think that their own power is the point of importance. Leadership isn’t about power, it’s about providing an environment through which people can utilize the best qualities within themselves. Too often, leaders become in love with their own reflection and forget about the people they lead. Even parents forget that they are in leadership roles. I’ve seen many families falling apart because no one is taking the reins; that is, there’s usually a sense of power and control but no real connection and understanding within the family about direction and an ideal to which the family subscribes. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at our lives and at least try to see that without community, there is no leadership. We are in this thing together. At least for me, I seek to eliminate the stupid from my leaders. And I hope to be a rock for those I lead such that they can become their own rock.
Crane, W.C. (1985). Theories of Development. New York, NY: Prentice Hall
Knowles, Malcom et al. (1992). The Adult Learner. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.