Leadership is an Ecology not a Position

Last time, I provided a more detailed description of what leadership is. Today I wanted to explore this notion that leadership is more an ecology than a formal position or person.

In any organization, we all recognize that there are formal authorities (managers, directors, supervisors) and then there are informal authorities (people we would naturally go to when we need help). We intuitively understand that we can’t look at an org chart and expect to understand the dynamic relationships in the organization.
In other words, leadership can’t be understood by looking at the positions in an org chart.
Instead if we look at the organization like an ecological system, we can see that there are a distribution of roles played by a variety of people. Most are part of the “mainstream” community who form the stable base of the company.

However, there are always leading edge elements – those that push the community to adapt – and trailing edge elements – those that prevent the community from adapting. Good leadership resides in the leading edge. But who are these people in the leading edge elements? And are you one of them?

Throughout history, there have always been key people who pushed to help society progress in new ways. Rachel Carson brought attention to the use of DDT and other pesticides on people. Nelson Mandela helped to steer South Africa through the ending of apartheid. Our very own Tommy Douglas introduced universal health care to Canada, something we take for granted. These leaders overcame the inertia of the group and mitigated active opposition to make mainstream that which was once controversial.

Surrounding these famous leaders though are a host of other leaders. Mandela drew inspiration from Ghandi and Che Guevera. Rosa Parks, who sparked the civil rights movements in the US, spent years training as an activist. No man or woman is an island. Like Shackleton’s team, we need people who can read the stars, or build new solutions to old problems or tap into our indomitable spirit.

And in this I find inspiration from that fact that formal leadership isn’t the only way to lead. We can start the leadership journey today by paying attention to what is needed by the community to face its challenges.

Next time, I want to identify some of these different roles in the leading edge and how you can invite some of these roles into your life.

Chris Hsiung
Better Life… Better Business

One Reply to “Leadership is an Ecology not a Position”

  1. Thanks for this Chris. My friend David Irvine has a whole book on leadership as presence not position. I will forward you his latest blog fyi. K

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