The Illusion of Successful change requires the top person

Doersam, Laurel Laurel.Doersam at
Thu Feb 22 11:03:48 PST 2001

Uwe wrote:

"My emerging view is that the leader/follower conversation in terms of
polarization leads into a dead end. We need both, leaders and followers
interacting more like in a dance. In my view it is the diversity of a group
the absolute adherence to the principle that no one is "better or worse",
"higher or lower" just because of the capabilities he or she brings to the
group. This I believe is the second great obstacle for all - we want to be
as someone special but we do not want that "specialness" to seperate us."

Another consideration is that our behaviour and the roles we play may be
determined by our place in an organization.  Barry Oshry cited the term "the
dance of blind reflex" to describe the behaviours of folks at different
levels in an organization.  He observed that most organizations have the
same three levels of citizenship: burdened tops, oppressed bottoms, torn
middles.  He found that this dance is so ingrained that it  plays out even
if folks switch stations or roles unless they become aware of the dance and
choose consciously to interrupt it.  His book, Seeing Systems, is a
delightful read - written mostly in verse.

So, where I'm going with this, is that I agree with Uwe that a dance-like
interaction between leaders and followers takes place, but sometimes the
dance is unconscious.  If the dance is based solely on the role that each
individual holds within the organizational hierarchy, then the organization
becomes stagnant, steeped in this reflexive, reactive dance.  Nothing
changes.  Each person plays out their part according to their role, and each
role supports the assumptions of the other.  However, if we were to
orchestrate/choreograph the dance consciously, then we'd have more fruitful,
satisfying relationships and we'd get more things done.  I dunno if I've
said this very well.

The other distinction that strikes me is that the most effective leaders in
organizations are often not those who hold the official role.  Leadership is
as often as not from beside, behind or underneath, and certainly there is
leadership at every level of an organization.  Indeed, those who truly drive
an organization are often far away from head office (ask any teacher who
runs the school, the principal, the secretary or the custodian!).  This
unofficial leadership is what breathes life into an organization and what
gives OST its power.  When leaders at all levels flourish, then an
organization becomes vibrant, resilient and dynamic.  I think, in some ways,
that it would be helpful to throw away the notion of leadership/followership
and look at organizations as creative collaborations of individuals who
share a common goal.  Probably heresy, but I'm in good company, eh,

Thanks for starting this fascinating thread, Peggy.


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