There was a point in my career when I realized how different the concepts of management and leadership were, and that to be a good manager one had to be a good leader. Since then the idea of leadership, as I understand it, has worked for me very well. I even like to consider my role in organizations I work for as a leader, not a manager.
Perceptions of leadership shift these days. Bob Marshall proposes the concept of fellowship. The idea is based on the famous Fellowship of the Ring and builds on how the group operated and what values were shared among its members, so that they eventually could achieve their goal.
A common denominator here is that everyone is equal; there’s no single “leader” who is superior to everyone else. At different points in time different people take over the role of leader in a way that is the best for the group.
As Bob points, leadership doesn’t really help to move beyond an analytical organization (see: The Marshall Model). This means the concept of leadership is insufficient to deal with further challenges our companies face on a road of continuous improvement. We need something different to deal with our teams, thus fellowship.
Another, somehow related, concept comes from Tobias Mayer, who points us to the idea of citizenship. Tobias builds the concept on a balance between rights and responsibilities. It’s not that we, as citizens, are forced or told to keep our neighborhood clean – it’s that we feel responsible for it. This mechanism can be transferred to our workplaces and it would be an improvement, right?
I like both concepts. Actually, I even see how one can transit to the other, back and forth, depending on which level of an organization you are. On a team level, fellowship neatly describes desired behaviors and group dynamics. As you go up the ladder, citizenship is a nice model to describe representation of a group among higher ranks. It also is a great way to show that we should be responsible for and to the people we work with, e.g. different teams, and the organization as a whole.
Using ideas introduced by Tobias and Bob we can improve how our teams and organizations operate, that’s for sure.
Yet, I don’t get one thing here. Why fellowship and citizenship concepts are built in opposition to leadership?
OK, maybe my understanding of leadership is flawed and there is The Ultimate Leadership Definition written in the stone somewhere, only I don’t know it. Maybe fellowship and citizenship violate one of The Holy Rules of Leadership and I’m just not aware of them. Because, for me, both ideas are perfectly aligned with leadership.
Leadership is about making a team operate better. If it takes to be in the first line, fine. When someone needs to do the dirty work no one else is willing to do, I’m good with that as well. I’m even happier when others can take over the leader’s role whenever it does make sense. And what about taking responsibility for what we do, people around and an organization around? Well, count me in, no matter what hat I wear at the moment.
When I read Bob and Tobias I’m all: “hell, yeah!” Except the part with labels. Because I still call it leadership. This is exactly what leadership is for me. Personally, I don’t need another name for what I do.
I don’t say that we should avoid coining new terms. Actually, both citizenship and fellowship are very neat names. I just don’t see the point of building the opposition to ideas we already know. The more so as citizenship and fellowship are models, which are useful for many leaders.
I don’t buy an argument that we need a completely new idea as people are misusing concepts we already have. Well, of course they are. There are all kinds of flawed flavors of leadership, same as there will be flawed flavors of fellowship and citizenship when they become popular.
I don’t agree that leadership encourages wrong behaviors, e.g. learned helplessness. Conversely, the role of a leader is to help a team operate better, thus help eliminate such behaviors. A good leader doesn’t build followership; they build new leaders.
That’s why I prefer to treat citizenship and fellowship as enhancements of leadership, not substitutions of it.