Yesterday, Jessica Conrad, Community Manager with the RE-AMP Network and I shared some of our experience fostering leadership within RE-AMP and NEWHAB. We facilitated a discussion with a group of Twin Cities network weavers about why emergent, shared leadership is so important for high-performing networks, what conditions foster self-organizing leadership, and how to begin creating those conditions.
One of our activities was to create a Eugene Kim-inspired spectrum showing what success in a network looks like when it:
- Has failed to create the conditions for informal leadership.
- Is moderately successful at creating the conditions for informal leadership.
- Is epic-ly successful at creating the conditions for self-organized leadership.
The failure descriptions started with burnout, festering conflicts, and nobody shows up. The epic success ended with momentum, new resources, inclusion, and sustainability.
We also explored two questions by reflecting on and sharing our own stories of emergent leadership. (We used Liberating Structure 1-2-4-All to facilitate these.)
- What conditions allow leadership to emerge in networks?
- What can you do to activate leadership from where you sit in the network?
During the morning, we heard several themes, and we also identified new questions:
- Stay out of the way; let others make things happen — and embrace the discomfort when they do it differently than you would have.
- Words mean things, so choose language carefully. “Leadership” is both good and bad, and others may understand the word differently than you intend it.
- There is power in an invitation. What does that mean for who is (and isn’t) at the table? How do you balance out the power of the person inviting?
- As new leaders emerge, differing visions about where a network is going inevitably emerge. How do those visions get resolved? Can they be avoided?