Everyone leads in tomorrow’s world, because it’s natural.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains that in a flock of birds they take it in turns to lead, because

  • being in the lead is energy depleting and can not last long (look at how every US President goes grey in the job),
  • all birds in the flock learn to do that job.

Humans are moving in that direction by moving to “democratically elected” leaders who have limited terms, rather than hereditary monarchs, dictators etc, but we have far to go.  We have yet to realise that being in front is a responsibility which must be shared and works best when everyone understands the role and its responsibilities.

The role of leader must be recognised for what it is: a part of the system which requires certain behaviours and attributes and must eschew other behaviours.  In human systems, the leadership role is most effective when it is facilitating the operation of the whole, when it is a communication, arbitration, decision making role which compromises between competing demands.  It encourage cooperation in order to reduce risk and increase effectiveness.  Knowing you will lead makes you a better follower; knowing you will follow makes you a better leader.

Few “leaders”approach the role in this way because the cultural mindset remains rather feudal.  When the man at the top is replaced by a woman in the middle, the dynamic will have evolved.  In the meantime, look for an organisation with many leaders and try to work in a system organised as modular teams which adopt “six-hat thinking” dynamics.

BBC: Flock co-operation: Birds take it in turns to lead

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