leadership LO280 (was Re: Self-organized Learning)

Tue, 28 Feb 95 09:01:10

Thanks to Rick, Mariann and Myrna for your thoughtful responses to my
questions about the relationship between leadership and empowerment. All
of you guessed right that what I am looking for is some sense as to how
leaders need to behave to create an environment in which the contributions
of all members of the organization can flourish.

The responses lead me to believe that I wasn't clear about the dilemma as
I see it. Of course, in an emergent organization, "leadership" results
from the transfer of power TO a leader FROM the membership. This concept
is embodied in Jefferson's language regarding truths that we hold to be
self-evident, namely that "governments derive their just powers from the
consent of the governed." In the transitional universe we live in, power
has already been aggregated into the hands of a few. To a great degree
what we are about is developing an understanding (and communicating it
openly) of where the real source of that power resides, enabling
empowerment to flourish. Those of us who have tried to practice change
strategies in organizations are frequently frustrated by the resistance to
change embodied in those who hold power, and their ability - often
unconscious - to stymie changes that even they would like to see occur.
In recent years we have begun to approach these "leaders" a little
differently, bringing them into dialogue when we can and pursuing a number
of other strategies which we hope will ensure and enable an environment of
organizational learning, among other outcomes.

We are also seeing, among the leadership of new organizations, the impact
of new knowledge which promotes a transformational outlook, and generates
a dynamism which helps to create exactly the environment needed for new
organizations to emerge. Yes, we see that, and we also see some leaders
looking to these organizations and to us - the proponents of these new
ideas - for help in developing practices which will transform themselves
and their organizations. We lead them to the "empowerment" trough; they
drink deeply and come to understand what needs to happen in the
organization. When they take the necessary steps to "lead" the
transformation of their organizations however, they need to exercise the
hierarchical power of the existing organization to effect change. This
paradox is not lost on those "below" who need to regain their own power,
and it will almost surely function as an obstacle to the desired outcome.
Can this be avoided? If not, what practices will minimize the impact of
the paradox?

Jack Hirschfeld         I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?