What is leadership?

Six leadership typesThis is my contribution to a dialogue on Systems Thinking on leadership: What is leadership?

Leadership – as a word – consists of “lea” and “ship“. The root of “lea” is in the Sanskrit “yui”, We find it also in “re-la-tionship”, “intel-li-gence”, “rea-li-ty”, “re-li-gion”, “li-aison”, and “faci-li-tation”. It meaning is related (!) to “connecting”. “ship” basically means “to create”, “to make”, “to come into being”. So Leadership implies “to create (or to maintain) connections”. In my opinion, leadership is an emergent phenomena connected with processes of grouping.

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.- Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus

A group (any group) both creates and is created by leadership, as, in my opinion, leadership connects a group with its environment, a.k.a. other groups. It consists of a double interact, of which we usually perceive only one of the interactions (“leading” or “following”).
This is a contribution to Systems Thinking dialogue on leadership. What is leadership?

There exists no “game” without a leader. As there exist (at least) six different “games”, there are also six different types of leaderships. Not only are they all connected to each other, they also creates each other.

As these double interact also creates meaning (in my opinion meaning is an emergent attribute of interactions, or, to put it differently, relationships shape meaning), leadership associates with (the) meaning of group (a group is also defined by the properties of its leadership and vice versa), or its very existence. This, in its turn, creates a double bind which makes it impossible to experiences leadership without adhering to the definition leader imposes. This also disables us from disconnecting Systems Thinking (ST) with leadership.

Systems Thinking, as a way of interacting with the environment is also a kind of leadership. Working along the lines of Will McWhinney in “Creating Paths of Change”, I discuss in my book (in Dutch, sorry), where ST fits and where it doesn’t. This is a kind of meta-leadership: the ability to perceive the type of leadership required in a situation and bringing it forward. This is what i call “facilitative leadership”.

As a fact, it is also the word “ladder”: something enabling you to climb up. Usually “leader” is seen at the top of the ladder. I think that a leader should become a ladder: enabling others to climb. Then, as Wittgenstein put it, you’ll be able to discard the ladder.

Over Jan Lelie

Loves to facilitate groups in complex situations
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