Do we need leaders?

Dave Pollard has done a podcast with Jon Husband. What’s more he’s gone to the trouble of transcribing the whole thing.

I’ve not met Dave but I have had the pleasure of spending time with Jon and this podcast deepens my respect for both of them. These guys are among the deepest thinkers about the future that I know; and they think with the hearts as well as their heads.

Their subject is Do We Need Leaders?. Whenever I listen to or read Jon, I wish I could sometimes just channel him. And I loved this recollection from Dave:

In my last year of high school, a group of us were permitted to work independently and not attend any classes provided we kept our test grades up. Rather than working ‘independently’ we chose to teach each other, to learn collectively, and to learn as much as possible outside the confines of the school. It was a spectacularly successful experiment, as our group won most of the scholarships and increased our grades substantially, but it was never repeated, apparently because it was considered ‘elitist’. Several of us had trouble in university readapting to the expectation we would sit in classes taking notes from droning professors.

And this from Jon seems spot on to me:

I don’t think we’ll get away soon from job evaluation methodology which is at the core of the gestalt in many organizations. Nobody really talks about this. I don’t see people in established organizations being willing to let go of the different levels and different pay grades — a lot of this is bound up with the notions of power and status and ego.

The core idea in this podcast, for me, is the idea of an ‘intentional community’: the notion that instead of following rigid hierarchies, the more natural way for humans to learn and grow is as volunteers taking care of each other.

I believe passionately in that view; in fact I think most rigid hierarchies only survive because of our human ability to make stuff work despite the rigid theories.

James and I are hatching a plot to write more about armies of volunteers, and to rehabilitate the notion of ‘coalitions of the willing’. I think Dave and Jon are on a similar bus.

4 thoughts on “Do we need leaders?

  1. Jon Husband

    Hey, Johhnie .. thanks for the mention, and the compliment.

    Warren Bennis, that leadership guru guy, once said “Hierarchy is a prosthesis for trust” … which resonated loudly for me when I read it, and I have never forgotten it.

    Are you coming over to Vancouver while you’re visiting Canada, before or after your idyll at Banff ?

  2. patti digh

    johnnie – no doubt you are familiar with Peter Miller’s article on ‘swarm theory’ in National Geographic – but if not, it is related to the issues you raise:

    Some of the points Miller raises link to your story:

    A single bee or ant isn’t smart, but colonies are

    Swarm intelligence – simple creatures following simple rules, each acting on local information.

    Bee rules for decision-making: seek a diversity of options, encourage a free competition among ideas, and use an effective mechanism to narrow choices.

    Leading to the discovery of local simplicities.

    Not elitist, but leaderless.

  3. Jon Husband

    Maty Boone guest-blogging at Cognitive Edge on “Leaderless Organizations” …

    Not much detail in the post, but I think she is right .. no doubt humans have the potential to get there, but it sure seems to me that it’s not any time in the next decade or two. In the meantime, all this transparency will, I believe, lead pretty quickly to the need for much better and more whole-system listening to be practiced by leaders, as well as full-on ongoing accountability (now if we can only get those whom we elect to represent us to actually represent us 😉


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