The last few years have seen the rise and rise of something that I like to call as “Distributed Leadership”, other names to this space are “people movement”, “leaderless agitations”, “apolitical unrest” and so on and so forth! Depending on which part of the world you reside in and how allowing the government of the day is, you will come across the example of Distributed Leadership in varying degrees of intensity, aggression and intent. Join me here as we take a quick look into what this is all about, and how we can tap the energy of this attribute to work for us and when can it falter and how do we keep it under check? So here we go!
The past few years, in fact quite a few of them, the world has been a witness to unrest, agitation and rift among various sections of societies and more often than not the collective voice of people has been directed towards the people who govern (or should I say mis-govern), what has largely changed is, unlike earlier times, when these were lead and systematically planned by one political outfit or ideology to topple the other, this time around many of these agitations and unrest episodes have been the strong, uncensored, relentless and direct simply because these were the voices of people who were not engaging with a stronger opposition as individual members of a society, but rather as a collective team of individual leaders- this is the dawn of “Distributed Leadership”.
If you are wondering why would this happen, when societies most of the times have ideologies to voice out societal concerns and raise issues with those who govern; well it is precisely when these fail and when people have lost all faith and trust in them that they are not left with any other option but to take the things into their own hands and formulate and come up with virtually “leaderless collective” which goes on to play a pivotal role in the emerging fabric of a new reorganized social fabric!
When people begin to loose faith among the elected/ nominated leaders and their leadership, they are left with no other choice but to take things into their own hands- call it coercive empowerment if you like, but when this potent force is used well, timely and for a just cause, even the most seemingly unrelenting governing bodies seem to get ready to come to the table for discussions and finding a mid-way- this in social space is known as public face saving! Well we have witnessed this, union movement, union talks with governing bodies of large organization, in the more recent times, the ability of professional bodies and trade organizations to negotiate and arrive at solutions which are more workable all of these are nothing but an impact of the leaderless movements and stimulus which begin everything that finally reaches on a potent table to find the way ahead! The question here is, why would elected or nominated leaders not do what they have been elected/selected to do and perform? Why would they want things in society to reach these levels?
Leaders are human too and they will fail for sure, the question is never about, “If they will fail; it is always about “When will they fail” and life being what it is, sooner or later even the best of leaders that you may have will be presented with a challenge which simply ends up being beyond their capacity to resolve- either there is limitation through Incompetence- Intrinsic or by virtue of the wrong people who have been allowed to rally around the Leader. Whether you consider a small organization having 100 people or large corporate houses or even perhaps the running of a nation- the failure of leadership is only possible when leadership Incompetence begins to precipitate and once that happens it is only a matter of time that as alternatives within the working frame collapse one after the other- society gets more and more restless and eventually you have these mass protests and voices on the street communicating what matters the most- as long as they are heeded and understood, there is still time to salvage the leader and the leadership, but for some real insane reason if leaders get advised to embark on the confrontational route- well total collapse of the leader and the leadership is eminent – sooner or later- because instances like those are never forgotten neither forgiven from the public memory once they are etched!
Another great blessing in disguise emerging from the space of people movement is the promise of a whole new breed of leaders, who are driven by set of values, principles and believe in the cause that they stand up for and are ready to brave what comes their way- sending out important signals to the community that they now have alternatives, which are importantly connected with how the society feels- which by itself is so vital to bring about any meaningful change or transformation that governing bodies may want to embark upon- whether they are community services of the government’s of the day or large organisation with considerable community foot-print in a given area.
If you think that people movement is always about those protests on the roads- well think again- it happens all the time- that blog you follow, that writer who inspires, that Ministry which motivates you, the fellow worker who makes you want to join the team, the stories you want to let your kids and the future generations know, factors like these and many other go on to ensure that when the times get tough, people will rise, slowly but surely and in whatever limited way they can- If they can’t be on the street they will through their thoughts or actions, no matter how small they seem to be- collaborate, communicate and engage to keep the momentum going on, like the ashed out cinders in a fireplace- always warm enough to provide that spark and rekindle a new fire- that is what the essence of distributed leadership through people really is!
Nominated or Elected Leaders are comprehensively powerless until and unless they have this loyal base which goes on to work all the time promoting and striving to live up to the promise of what has been communicated from the very top! Say the leader of a nation appeals to their citizens to make that nation great again! Well unless citizens don’t add to the equation and do what each one of them can do in their own small or big way- the dream will always end up being a dream and if you really begin to experience change and an impact- then you surely know that there is this huge army of nameless leaders who are slowly but effectively contributing to the cause and ensuring that dream gets to see the light of the day!
If you are wondering can this space of People led Leadership movement be kept under check, well the answer is YES and NO, Yes, if it seems to threaten the fundamental fabric of a society or nation or tends to bring about great danger to humanity, the the nominated and elected class will clamp down- hard and fast and NO if the incompetence levels have been so terrible that they are actually putting the society and nation at risk to a point from where recovery seems impossible! As with a nation, likewise with other facets, as long as the threats are low to moderate and not a severe threat people movements will come and go- with limited impacts, but when the the threats seems to be severe, they sustain, linger, and tend to keep coming back for one or the other reason on an ongoing basis and to make matters complicated- the more effort that is made to clamp them down- the more resurgent they seem to become! There is never an absolute right and wrong when it comes to humanity and the truth always lingers somewhere between the extreme options that a society is always presented with!
I will leave you with these thoughts here, urging you to witness the next people movement/protest/agitation/ rift through the lens of leadership incompetence and social rewiring- for that is what it really always is and will be! Sometimes it happens dramatically on the streets and other times it is happenings in quiet corridors of power and the shop floors of factories when people assume Individual Leadership- no title- no designation- Leadership by Action to support and further the cause that they have aligned themselves to! This is the real secret about how human societies make progress even through the most challenging and daunting times and every time we miss to see this, rest assured we miss out on vital cues to decipher and decode what’s unfolding in the future- both the short term and the long term of it!
Ciao for now, will be back soon with another one, until then stay wise, stay safe and be the Leader that you can be and always remembers Leaders don’t need labels- they earn them as they do what they set out to do!