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Presidential Elections & Leadership Lenses

Observations on the “I” Fear Factor and the Hopeful “We”

Six weeks after 9/11 I found myself at the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association. We were all shell-shocked and eager for a chance to talk, heal and try to make some meaning of what was going on. An impromptu panel session formed over lunch as a number of scholars shared their thoughts and concerns about 9/11 and its aftermath. One speaker’s comments stuck with me and were unfortunately played out in the months that would follow. Jean Lipman Blumen talked about what occurs in a climate of fear and our willingness to abdicate leadership as we look for a savior and hand over our authority for the promise of safety. Of course during the years that followed, we saw Congress give new authority to the white house and our civil rights being slowly eroded as we responded to the promise, “I will make America safe.”

Seven years later, I find myself riveted to election coverage news. It is the “Yes We Can” phenomenon, accompanied by record turn out in the polls, that intrigues me most. Over the past several years in LLC through our national meetings, consulting works and our national “Creating Space” meetings, we have pursued questions that are playing out in the electoral race: What does it take to mobilize a critical mass for change, how can we shift from a heroic leadership paradigm (the “I”) to one that better integrates cultural traditions that are more collective in approaches to mobilizing action (the “We”), how can we tap into social media and the momentum of networks and of course…how can we popularize, democratize and activate leadership through every sector of society.

The momentum created around the Barack Obama campaign and his message of hope is a phenomenon. The real question, and a leadership question, is how this support organizes into a true expression of “Yes we can” that provides a continuing vehicle for higher levels of civic engagement, discourse and advocacy on behalf of health reform, quality education, and a stronger economy. The self-organizing taking place on the campaign’s website, an extensive donor base, high levels of youth involvement and the diversity of this constituency may offer us some important lessons about new possibilities for collective leadership, social movements and the change process in the 21st century.
I hope so!

Comments

Yes we can if all leaders

Yes we can if all leaders have the same thing in common and that is for the betterment of the whole country.

-Jan
Self-Improvement Advice

Self-organizing on the campaign website

Chris Hughes, one of the inventors of Facebook has set up the social networking site mybarackobama.com. If anyone is interested in seeing how leadership self-organizes through a social networking site, check out the community blogs on mybarackobama.com. One recent example was the response of volunteers to a lack of posters, bumper stickers, and buttons that were completely unavailable from the Obama store after the February 5th primaries. The backlog of several weeks meant that supporters had to find creative ways to address the problem. In a very short time after the pleas of supporters in states with upcoming primaries, Obamacycling took hold. People in states with past primaries who had supplies notified one of the volunteers who offered to help match those supplies with people who needed them. Other people used their artistic ability to create high resolution files that could be taken down and printed locally. The national campaign office had no involvement in any of these transactions; local volunteers were completely self-organizing with powerful results.