Leadership is Not a Person


One of the key takeaways from “Doing Good in the 21st Century,” our collaborative project with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), is the confirmation, or reminder, that leadership itself is changing: the future of the sector depends on an evolving concept–and practice!–of leadership that goes far beyond individual “leaders.”

In seeking to answer the question: How must the social sector adapt to succeed in meeting 21st Century challenges and opportunities? we learned that although there is growing recognition of the potential of collective leadership, we are just beginning to see real examples of what different models of leadership can look like.

As EPIP-HY Steering Committee Co-Chair Nichole Martini writes in a recent blog post, collaborative leadership is a concept that resonates for many of us intellectually, but we are still learning what it means to put it into practice. For her, this included a realization that sharing leadership is more than simply divvying up responsibilities, but create the opportunity to blend skills, experiences, and styles to come up with richer and also more powerful solutions.

But this requires a paradigm shift for those of us who have long equated leadership with a charismatic individual or a specific set of individual behaviors. This concept of “heroic” leadership is still ingrained in hierarchical organizational structures and cultures, but is a poor fit for the increasingly networked world in which more distributed forms of problem-solving are needed. This shift will be the topic of a webinar on October 30, “Beyond the Rock Star Paradigm: Practical Tools for Visionary, Collaborative Leadership,” presented by Rockwood Leadership and hosted by EPIP.

The social sector is the transformational sector. Yet transformational change will only happen if every person sees himself or herself as a leader, and if those already in formal leadership positions welcome the leadership of others. We need a leader in every chair, so that we can draw on different kinds of leaders for different kinds of problems.

Are our organizations ready? Are we ready?

Tell us what you think!

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