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Emergent Leadership

I always enjoy when I come across a description of leadership that resonates with how leadership emerges in networks.  I want to remember where it came from and somehow be able to access it again, but then I move on and forget where I came across it.  Sociologist Philip Slater wrote a book on the transformation of culture in which he reflects about the shifts from a Control Culture to an Integrative Culture (The Chrysalis Effect:  The Metamorphosis of Global Culture).  Here is how he describes emergent leadership:


In informal groups leaders emerge spontaneously.  They may be the best liked, the wisest, the most fun, or the ones with the best ideas.  Often ledaership will circulate, depending on the group's activity.  But leaders that emerge spontaneously tend to share certain traits.  Successful leaders, say Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in their classic work on leadership, have a clear vision of where they want to go, an ability to communicate this to others, and a realistic and positive sense of self.  They're trustworthy, pay attention to people, and induce self-esteem in others, often by challenging them.  These are qualities possessed by emergent leaders that may or may not be possessed by formal ones. 


Slater argues that this form of leadership is more adaptable to change than authoritarian systems that often fail because they do not see, sense, or adapt to the next change needed. In a world where change is chronic, creating the conditions for leadership emergence will be critical to thrivability in a global culture. If you are interested in joining this conversation, check out  Leadership for a New Era


What is your favorite description of leadership?


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