From leader-as-hero to leader-as-host

Resurgence magazine (January/February 2011) recently featured an article by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze based on their new book Walk Out Walk On: A learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now. In this excerpt they make the point that the only way we are going to be able to find solutions to the many challenges we face is if we recognise that we are all in this together, rather than depending on an heroic leader. Because the issues we face are complex and interconnected there are no straight forward answers – and it’s certainly more than one individual can take on. The days of command and control are past because we now realise that we live within a complex system.
And this is where the idea of leader-as-host, as opposed to leader-as-hero, comes in. Such leaders are wise enough to know that they don’t have all the answers, but what they do know is that other people within the organisation, when invited, can be just as creative and committed – and that together they can get things moving. So not only do we need to be patient with our leaders but we also need to be prepared to step up.
The leader-as-host is someone who has realised that within a particular organisation or community there are people who have the skills, capacities, knowledge and insight to contribute. They also know people are more likely to support what they have had a part in creating, and so they create meaningful conversations – and a lot of other things – that bring together a range of different people.
‘Hosting leaders create substantive change by relying on everyone’s creativity, commitment and generosity. They learn from first-hand experience that these qualities are present in just about everyone and in every organisation. They extend sincere invitations, ask good questions and have the courage to support risk-taking and experimentation’
WHEATLEY, M. & FRIEZE, D. 2011. Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now Berrett-Koehler.