In trying to sort through a governance issue on something that I have been working on, I was reminded of the writings of Edwin Friedman and his recently republished From Generation to Generation. Looking at leadership through the eyes of a Jewish Rabbi may not seem the usual route, but Friedman, who was also a psychiatrist, had some very good insights in the way people and organizations work. He based his own work on the family systems theory originated by Murray Bowen and put his own spin on it.
In the situation I have been pondering, both charisma and consensus have been in play. Friedman sees these as two poles that leaders and followers move between and sees both positives and negatives in both. Perhaps the strongest insight is that leadership really relates to position organically. There are heads and there are bodies. The role ebbs and flows. It’s never totally straight forward, because the leader in one situation (CEO) may have to be a follower when he meets his or her shareholders. The real role of the leader is to stay with the vision that placed him or her in the position in the first place and work primarily on self.
I had the pleasure of being part of one of the best task forces ever in 2009 and was given the assignment of reviewing modern concepts of leadership. It’s time to revisit those in the coming weeks – so I’m starting backwards from this one. The Charisma Consensus continuum may also help with this model.