Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Resetting the Gryroscope

Today I had tickets to zigzag south through Alabama on a trio of Greyhound buses—from Athens to Birmingham to Montgomery to Mobile—where I was hoping to be collected by my brother and sister-in-law, Guy & Elaine, for a long weekend visit. The day started auspiciously enough, as I awoke to single digits and clear skies in south, central Tennessee (at Dunmire Hollow, home of long-time friend, Harvey Baker and his sweetheart, Dorie). Though it was strikingly cold, after a spot of breakfast we had no trouble getting to Athens in time for the 9:55 am, heading south.

Unfortunately, the 9:55 did not arrive at 9:55. In fact, at 1:30 I was still in Athens and it was at that point that the agent called Greyhound Central and learned the bad news: all buses through Alabama had been canceled because of brutish winter weather that paralyzed a swathe across the southeast, including Birmingham and Atlanta. With images of hippos on ice, Greyhound took the high road and shut down all routes scheduled to journey through the Yellowhammer State. Thus, I'm enjoying an unanticipated extended visit to Athens AL—a town I never knew existed until I'd bought my bus ticket.

Guy & Elaine had moved south from Chicago to Mobile Bay four years, hoping to never see snow again. Last night their luck ran out, as Mobile saw it's first white stuff in 17 years. Oddly enough, here I was in the Deep South (and trying to head deeper) and the outdoor temperatures were lower than I encountered while changing trains in the Windy City last Saturday. When it comes to weather, you just never know.

• • • 

My "official" reason for coming south had nothing to do with warmer weather (which is a good thing considering what I've encountered so far). Monday and Tuesday I was immersed in two days of meetings with FIC's Oversight Committee. This group plays a coordinating
function and serves as the kitchen cabinet between our semi-annual Board meetings—acting on behalf of the Board between the all-hands-on-deck meetings that take place spring and fall. 

As is our habit for the mid-winter Oversight interim meeting, we gathered at Harvey's in Tennessee. Ordinarily, heading south in January is considered prudent from the standpoint of avoiding bad driving conditions. This year, not so much.

For most of FIC's 27 years, Oversight has been comprised of five or six members, but we are temporarily down to three old warriors: Marty Klaif, Harvey Baker, and myself.

The last two days I was catching them up on what I'd been doing as FIC's main administrator, and we huddled about how to proceed with various challenges and opportunities. I think of it as a chance to reset the organizational gyroscope and to make mid-course corrections to my marching orders.

We accomplished all this in a familiar setting: Harvey's living room. Marty (who lives at Shannon Farm in Afton VA) slept in the newly remodeled guest room, and I slept on the couch.

Bird Feeder Television In addition to sharing an abiding dedication to FIC, Harvey, Marty, and I share a few other things in common—in addition all being older white guys. For example, none of us own a television set. 

What Harvey & Dorie have instead is a bird feeder right outside the large south-facing windows of their dining nook, where we enjoyed the chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, titmice, and the occasional red-bellied woodpecker and cardinal as they munched their way through a cylindrical column of sunflower seeds.

Kinda like having a TV set where you only get the Nature Channel, and where the snow is on the ground, rather than on your screen. But there are no commercials and it's endlessly entertaining during breakfast and lunch.

Bill Becker—who served for many years as the Fellowship's Treasurer and was therefore a member of Oversight—used to treasure his winter trips to Dunmire because: a) he could count on seeing at least one male cardinal in full plumage (a bird whose range doesn't extend to the Front Range of Colorado, where Bill resides); and b) we often scheduled Oversight meetings to coincide with playoff football weekends, which Bill enjoyed watching with friends. (In fact, I've attended more Super Bowl parties at Dunmire Hollow than I have in northeast Missouri!)

Going Like 40
Another point in common among Harvey, Marty, and me is that our long-time communities are all celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. That's right, Shannon Farm, Dunmire Hollow, and Sandhill Farm were all founded in 1974, which has turned out to be a vintage year for everyone except Richard Nixon.

These past two days it was enjoyable to be with close friends, getting the work done, and coming together for an Oversight interim meeting for about the 40th time. It's been quite a run.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Son of Hierarchy

Following my post of six days ago (Hierarchy in Cooperative Groups) I got a burst of responses from Abe that makes me wonder how god a job I did at expressing myself, so I'm devoting today's entry to a response:

Abe #1
Expertise and influence are not the same thing as hierarchy. 

I agree. While influence is the basis for differences in power, hierarchy (in cooperative groups, which is what I was writing about) exists when individuals or subgroups (such as a committee or task force) are authorized to make decisions on behalf of the whole. That is, the authorized person (or persons) can make decisions that others in the group cannot.

Delegation is not the same thing as hierarchy, as long as the community has oversight.

If the individual or subgroup is authorized to make decisions binding on the whole then it is hierarchy. If the individual or subgroup is only advisory—and the ability to make decisions continues to be held by the plenary, then delegation does not necessarily equate to hierarchy (I'm equivocating here because sometimes managers or committees accrue enough power that it is very difficult for others to object to their proposals, even when everyone in the group has that power in theory. 

Having oversight, or the ability to overturn a subgroup decision, is not that same as having the power to institute a decision. The essential point here is that there is an official group-blessed power differential. 

When I'm advocating for the judicious use of hierarchy in cooperative groups, I am not proposing that that managers or subgroups be given absolute power such decisions cannot be questioned. Rather, I'm trying to make the case for delegating authority in the interest of reserving plenary attention only for those things where full group engagement is prudent.

Expertise in a participatory community can stand by itself. The power is in the knowledge itself and not the person. 

Not quite. Sometimes authority is given to people simply because they are perceived to be wise; not because they are perceived to have superior skill or more experience relevant to the job description. 

As a contrast, if a teacher holds hierarchical authority over a student, the power is in "because I said so!"

Hierarchy is the structure that results from the belief that some people are superior to others. It is also the structure that promotes that belief.

While that's one version of hierarchy, I'm talking about choosing to delegate authority because it's more efficient (and because experience and skill relevant to the job are not uniformly distributed among group members).

Laird, you have written recently on your blog about the delicate balance of delegation. If delegation gets too far from center, transparency and decisions that are representative of the group take a loss. 

Hmm. If "too far from center" means coloring outside the lines (exceeding the authority given by the group), then I absolutely think there needs to be a way to rein that in. I'm a big fan of clear mandates that spell out when the subgroup can act on behalf of the whole and when ti needs to consult. Further, mandates should spell out reporting requirements (which address transparency concerns). For a more thorough presentation of a delegation template, refer to my blog of March 20, 2010, Consensus from Soup to Nuts.

That said, I don't that managers or committees necessarily need to make decisions that are "representative of the group" so much as they need to make decisions that are in the groups best interest, and in line with their mandate. Sometimes the best decision is not the most popular.

I end up having conversations with people new to the idea of an egalitarian community. They get caught up in the root word "equal" and say, "Well we can not be all equal! Some of are better at this than that, and we all have different abilities." I respond with saying that egalitarianism is about giving people more equal access to resources and decision-making. If a member comes into our community and is taller than the rest of the group, we're not going to lop off his feet to shorten him. 


Similarly, democracy or participatory decision-making does not mean all decisions are made by everyone about everything all the time. It does mean that for a healthy democracy, hierarchy is to be avoided.

Sorry, Abe. I don't buy it. Within the context that hierarchy (delegation of authority to a subgroup) is accompanied by: a) clear mandates; b) a thoughtful process for selecting the person(s) who fill the position; and c) regular opportunities for evaluation, then I'm of the view that healthy cooperative groups of 20 or more people probably cannot function well without hierarchy.

—Abe #2
Here is another point of concern for certain types of delegation:

"We are in an age that assumes the narrowing trends of specialization to be logical, natural, and desirable. Consequently, society expects all earnestly responsible communication to be crisply brief. Advancing science has now discovered that all the known cases of biological extinction have been caused by overspecialization, whose concentration of only selected genes sacrifices general adaptability. Thus the specialist’s brief for pinpointing brevity is dubious. In the meantime, humanity has been deprived of comprehensive understanding. Specialization has bred feelings of isolation, futility, and confusion in individuals. It has also resulted in the individual’s leaving responsibility for thinking and social action to others. Specialization breeds biases that ultimately aggregate as international and ideological discord, which in turn leads to war." - Buckminster Fuller (Synergistics 1975)

If you're saying that delegation and specialization can be taken too far, I agree. If, however, you're interpreting Bucky Fuller to mean that all delegation is specious, I think that's going too far. After 40 years of community living (the last 26 of which I've been a process consultant, and have worked professionally with perhaps 100 groups), my overwhelming impression is that most cooperative groups delegate poorly and members are loathe to serve on committees or to accept managerships because so much of their work is undone or regularly second-guessed in plenary. 

The problem is not so much that the subgroups or managers are too specialized in their knowledge; it's that the plenary doesn't know how to let go (all the while complaining about how frequent the meetings are)!

—Abe #3
Hierarchy can be efficient in the decision making, and slow in the implementation. 

Only if the mandates are unclear, or the subgroup is doing a poor job of soliciting and working constructively with input from outside the committee.

Underlings tend to drag their feet more. Having a sense of common ownership brings more investment to workers.

I agree with this. If delegation translates into an us/them dynamic (by which I mean dividing the group into an in-the-subgroup faction and a not-in-the-subgroup faction) then you'll definitely have problems. But clean delegation doesn't have be like that.

In carrying out the values and thoughts of a group, hierarchy is very inefficient. 

Huh? Not if you have the right people in the right roles.

It would be better to take from permaculture and plan more ahead of time, so the implementation is quicker and so the system can sustain itself longer. 

I'm pro planning, pro being careful about crafting good mandates, and agree that when decisions are handled well in cooperative groups then implementation sings. Yet those things do not add up to an injunction against delegating authority. They add up to being prudent.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remembering Steve Imhof


I just found out yesterday morning that Steve Imhof died Jan 8 of a massive heart attack. Today's blog will be a eulogy for my friend—too soon gone.

I first met Steve in 1980, when he and his then-wife Joy were living near Canton MO (only about 45 miles from Sandhill Farm) and were available as a midwife team. Ann and I wanted a home birth for the child we were expecting, they were the closest midwives willing to work with us (which was no small thing at the time—midwifery was was not legalized in Missouri until 2007). They worked with us on prenatal visits, and then Steve assisted when our son, Ceilee, was born in our bedroom on a cold, sunny morning, January 27, 1981. It was the first birth at which Steve was the primary attendant—noteworthy for a profession that's overwhelmingly filled by women.
While we were wholly satisfied with our birth experience, Steve & Joy were fundamental Christians, and there was tension about our divergence spiritual views. While it may seem strange that we'd select midwives that held such views, there were not a lot of choices. 

Missouri is an odd state in which the combination of: a) inexpensive land; b) minimal rural zoning; and c) permissive laws around homeschooling have resulted in encouraging both the religious right and the liberal left to try their hand at homesteading in the Show Me State. Both segments are interested in exploring alternate lifestyles based on values that are not popular in the mainstream and desire minimal regulatory interference. That said, while both tend to share a passion for large gardens, home births, and parental involvement in the education of their children, the political outlook of these two segments could hardly be more different—which led to some odd moments of solidarity among people you might expect wouldn't talk to each other.

I recall an awkward moment during a routine postpartum check-up when Steve spoke enthusiastically about abortion protests and I couldn't (or at least didn't) resist inserting my view that abortion is a personal matter to be decided by a pregnant woman—who should have full authority over her own body—and I didn't see it as morally wrong. I'd lost track of Steve shortly after this tense exchange. Steve & Joy moved out of the area and we found different midwives for subsequent Sandhill births.

Then, out of the blue, Steve resurfaced 27 years later. After reaching disillusionment with the narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism of his church—and a difficult separation from Joy—he remembered Ceilee's birth and his brief contact with intentional community back in 1987, and was curious about what that kind of lifestyle might lead to. Amazingly, he was able to track me down through FIC's Communities Directory. (The internet moves in mysterious ways.)

For 38 years Steve had been a minister of an evangelical Christian organization. Then he got religion… about how people can connect with the divine in many more ways than are defined by a single articulation. This latter day ecumenical Steve was scarred, but not scared. He was also much more curious and much more interesting. He was no less dedicated to being a helpful person, but, somewhere in the vicinity of his 60th birthday, he started asking a lot more questions. There is something totally awe-inspiring to me about encountering people north of 60 whose souls blossom instead of shrivel—and Steve was such a person.

Six years ago, after we'd reconnected, I told him that I'd be in Atlanta for a facilitation training and he drove 300 miles for the chance at a brief conversation with me. Intrigued by the training, he decided to sit in and became hooked. Ultimately, he attended each of the eight weekends (most of which took place in North Carolina, which meant eight hours of driving each way) and then starting applying what he learned. First with with the volunteer fire department back in Panama City, and later with Occupy Panama City.

Two days before his heart gave out, Steve had been in communication with Ma'ikwe and me about driving his motor home up to Rutledge this summer to participate in Round Two of the 37-day immersion Ecovillage Education US course.

While I reckon we'll still be able to draw on Steve's supportive spirit this July, now, sadly, we'll have to do it without his corporeal presence. So long, buddy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hierarchy in Cooperative Groups

Happy Inauguration Day!

As we're not installing a President today—we did that last year and it only happens quadrennially (a word I rarely get to use in mixed company)—I'm using the occasion to write about power and hierarchy in a country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Over the course of the last two months I've run into considerable buzz among advocates for cooperative culture around the concept that maybe hierarchy isn't all bad. The interesting thing to me is that this has been shared with an aroma of heresy—and I've been scratching my head to understand why, or even why this is considered an insight.

Mostly, cooperative culture is build on the bedrock concepts of equality and fairness. Having lived in intentional community for 40 years, those are certainly core values to me and to network groups I've been part of, including the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and the Fellowship for Intentional Community. But what does "equality" mean?

I believe it's the idea that all people have fundamental rights:
o  Access to the essentials of life: food, clothing, shelter, health, education
o  Opportunity to have input on decisions affecting their life
o  An explanation when things don't go their way
o  Access to meaningful work
o  Support in hard times

I further believe it's the idea that all people have basic responsibilities:
o  To contribute to the well-being of others (parallel to what has been extended to them)
o  To follow through on commitments and to abide by agreements
o  To do one's fair share (which includes a proportionate share of the grunt work)
o  To treat others with basic respect
o  To listen to what others have to say on matters of joint interest, and to consider viewpoints differ than one's own

Having said all that, I don't think it means everyone is equally talented or has equal power. In fact, I think that's absurd. My commitment to everyone having a chance to offer their views does not guarantee that everyone's view will be given equal weight—that depends on the perceived merits of what they've said, which is actually a fairly complex calculus (more on that below).

Equal Whether You Like it or Not
Some groups committed to equality adopt the practice of rotating everyone through positions of authority (thus, in a group of 10, every tenth meeting it would be your turn to facilitate). The good side of this is that:

a) It gives everyone a taste of the role. Sometimes taking a turn as facilitator can have an amazingly salutary effect on how people participate in meetings. Having walked in the facilitator's moccasins, members tend to be more respectful and less rebellious when others are in that role.

b) Sometimes people need to be nudged into taking the first step. If the initial experience goes well enough that may be all they need to keep at it and develop a new skill, benefiting everyone.

c) It prevents people getting locked into roles that they'd rather not be assigned permanently. Sometimes people become victims of their talent or their success, and the group gets lazy about developing replacements or substitutes.

d) It's demonstrably fair, and avoids any hard feelings about why someone never gets picked.

Turning the coin over, the bad side is:

e) Talent is almost always unevenly distributed. If everyone takes a turn, that means the group is guaranteed to suffer through bouts of less competent people in the role. That can get expensive.

f) The flip side of b) is that a person can be traumatized by being pushed into a role they don't want and having it go poorly (which result is all the more likely when someone doesn't want the role in the first place). In addition to poor results for the group, it scars the person, and what's the good in that?

g) It undercuts the value of having the group get explicit about what it wants from that role, since assignments won't be based on ability to meet the criteria.

—Laird's Take
I think the best melding of these poles is to have the group commit resources to helping people learn the skills needed to do any job that the group depends on, and then giving them opportunities to practice what they're learning appropriate to their development. Thus, the group commits to broadening the leadership base, yet doesn't insist on people taking turns in roles they want no part of, and people are not assigned roles they are not (yet) equipped to handle well.

All Are Equal, but Some Are More Equal than Others
This is a paraphrase from Animal Farm, George Orwell's 1945 satirical allegory about the concentration of power under Stalin in the name of the proletariat, ultimately recapitulating the very abuses of power that the communists were inspired to overthrow the Russian czars to address.

Understanding the distribution of power in cooperative groups is a tricky and volatile issue. I think of power as the ability to get others to do something, or to agree to something. In essence, I'm defining power as influence. In addition, there is the concept of authority, by which I mean a group-granted license to act on the group's behalf.

In democratic groups the plenary (meeting of the whole) is the ultimate repository of authority. Sometimes (typically not as often as they should) authority is delegated to committees or managers. However, irrespective of authority, let's look more deeply at power in the context of the plenary. It's my observation that the ability to influence is never evenly distributed among the membership.

This has to do with many things:

o  Experience germane to the issue
If you're discussing how to address a burst water pipe in the common house, the views of the member who's a retired plumber are going to carry more weight.

o  Track record
People whose advice has proven sound in the past will be listened to more closely.

o  Persuasiveness 
Those more comfortable speaking in group and more cogent in their comments are likely to be more successful in garnering support for their views.

o  Sagacity
People who are perceived to listen well to what others have said and can consistently place the group's interests ahead of their own tend to have more sway.

o  Privilege
We have all been conditioned to defer to some categories of people over others, independent of the above factors. Even where there is explicit agreement to be conscious of privilege, and to not be influenced by it, it takes constant vigilance to be aware of its presence.

(To illuminate how confusing this can be, I have a tremendous amount of privilege in the context of the mainstream culture: white, older, male, straight, Protestant upbringing, college educated, well-off middle class parents. That said, cooperative groups trying to create an alternative to privileged-based culture are aware of this and are thus on guard in how they hear me, wanting to be diligent about not accidentally agreeing with me out of conditioning—rather than on the basis of my thinking and experience. It can get pretty messy discerning between the two.)

—Laird's Take
While that's not everything, it's enough to establish the complexity of the dynamic. In general, cooperative groups want to promote power (influence) being used for the good of the whole (power with) instead of its being used for the benefit of some at the expense of others (power over). In managing this, it's imperative that groups are able to talk openly and authentically about the perception that power has been used inappropriately. If, however, they are operating under the misguided notion that power is flatly distributed (because that's the group's intention) then it becomes impossible to have this conversation, and members will be oriented to seeing the boogie man everywhere—because exercising power will be seen as prima facie evidence of an out-of-control ego. It'll be a witch hunt. (Among other things, if members are laboring under the assumption that they should get their way as often as everyone else—independent of the quality of their views—it leads to the automatic analysis that consistent failure to prevail translates into their not having been heard, and that they're being systematically discriminated against. Ugh.)

While it's good to protect the equality of opportunity for everyone to add their piece to the consideration, it's ridiculous to pretend that everyone's influence will be equal.

Delegate or Die
More subtly, there is a relatively common notion among groups using consensus that the plenary should, more or less, decide everything. While that's not such a big deal in a group of four to six, it's totally out of hand in groups of 20 or more. It's my sense that consensus groups often hamstring themselves by insisting that committees and managers conduct research and develop proposals that must come to the plenary for approval, one at a time. This undercuts enthusiasm for committee work (because everything is subject to revision by the plenary) and creates a terrific bottleneck in plenary (which must sprinkle holy water on too many things).

I think one of the reasons that this happens is because those with less power (influence) are fearful that delegated authority will make it harder to have their say, because it will take much more effort on their part to attend the dispersed meetings at which decisions will be made. This translates into a further erosion of their power and they want to hold onto what they have—often because their draw to be in the group in the first place was motivated, at least in part, by the desire to have more say in a world that is profoundly disempowering.

—Laird's Take
Delegation should be based on an assessment of skill, motivation, and availability relative to what is wanted from the position. (Note that this implies clear and complete job descriptions.)

That said, there is profound poignancy about how to balance: a) the need for efficacy, and for putting the right people in the right positions; with b) the deep desire for a more just and fair world that promotes decency and addresses the myriad ways that power is misused in the world. After a lifetime of experiencing hierarchy associated with abuse, it's not at all easy to sort the baby (healthy use of power) from the bath water (of structure being used to justify all manner of mischief in the name of efficiency).

• • •
In conclusion, I want to return to where I started: the tenderness of people committed to cooperative culture who are now in anguish about seeing the appropriateness for some degree of hierarchy.

Because I've never thought that a commitment to consensus and cooperative culture meant that delegated authority was a bad idea, I've not been finding any new nuggets when I sieve through the dialog. Nevertheless, I view this dialog as a sign of a maturing movement, where proponents are breaking out of a chrysalis that had them locked into one-size-fits-all equality. The prize here is a better quality for life for all, not reducing everyone to the least common denominator.

I think of this not so much as painful growth, as growing pains.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Entrepreneurial Dilemma

This past summer, Terry O'Keefe and I co-taught four days of focus on the economic dimension for the Ecovillage Education US training at Dancing Rabbit. (The other three dimensions are worldview, ecological, and social.) We started the afternoon of our last day with a 90-minute discussion about the challenge of integrating entrepreneurial energy in cooperative communities.

Most of the students in the class aspired to start an ecovillage and we challenged them to consider how to fit together the following pieces:

A. Most intentional communities struggle to create a solid economic base for their members. That is, it's rare that all members have the income stream they need without leaving home to secure it. To be clear, I'm not saying that all members of intentional communities struggle to make enough money; I'm saying that it's rare for a community to provide its members decent work—by which I mean work that pays well, has flexible hours, can be done at home, and is well-aligned with one's values.

(To be fair, income-sharing groups almost all tackle this challenge head on, but they're only 10-12% of the field of intentional communities—the vast majority of communities leave the matter of member income almost wholly up to the members themselves and don't even attempt to address it.)

B. Communities tend be located in areas where property is more affordable—an unintended consequence of which is poor wages in the immediate area. Thus, unless a member's income is unrelated to geography (perhaps they're retired and living off a pension or investments; living off inheritance; telecommuting, or relying on off-site consulting), there is often a struggle for members to make ends meet. This can show up in long commutes, less-than-satisfying employment, or weak wages—none of which produce much joy.

C. Entrepreneurs tend to prefer working alone, with plenty of room for creativity, few encumbrances on what they can do, and minimal bureaucratic oversight. Often, if there are concerns about their ideas that arise within the group, the entrepreneur has reactions such as:
—You're just not open to new ideas.
—It's not fun for me to do this work if you're just going to be critical.
—I'm trying as hard as I can to generate new income in line with the community's values, and instead of appreciation I get accused of compromising what the group stands for. Instead of being a hero I'm the villain!

D. Successful entrepreneurs often accrue income, latitude, and power out of proportion to their dedication or years of service to the community, which creates tension (envy?) with those (the non-entrepreneurs) who feel they don't have access to the same pathway to a better life or greater standing in the group.

E. The ability of entrepreneurs to be joyous about their pursuit of money-making is often viewed as suspect in the context of communities that have core values around equity and fairness. (If money is the root of all evil, it's suspicious that you take such pleasure in its generation.)

F. Many of the traditional rewards for entrepreneurs in the wider culture (personal financial gain, a corner office with a view, a reserved parking place, a year-end bonus, increased power) do not necessarily transfer into the community milieu. A vibrant entrepreneurial subculture can translate into significant inequalities among the membership.

G. One of the surest ways to generate new income streams is to attract and support residents with entrepreneurial (money-making) energy. However, once you digest the complications of factors C-F above, you can see why entrepreneurs don't flock to communities.
What are suitable rewards for entrepreneurs that: a) genuinely recognize their contributions;

yet b) don't compromise or undercut the community's values? Keep in mind that entrepreneurial energy manifests in more ways than just starting business ventures. It also shows up in solving problems and establishing systems and structures. Thus, there is an aspect of founding communities that is entrepreneurial, even if isn't linked directly to income generation.

This is a poignant problem. Communities need entrepreneurial energy, yet are conflicted about embracing it.

Among other things this is a diversity issue.

o  How wide a range of views about money can exist among the community membership without incurring undue tension? If the values of the entrepreneur's product or service align well with group values, is this sufficient to bridge the gap?

o  Entrepreneurs typically want to run their own businesses. If they are sufficiently successful to create jobs for others in the community (which are likely to be desirable to non-entrepreneurs, most of whom would prefer to work near home), then you necessarily walk into the schizophrenic dynamics of Member A being an employee of Member B Thursday afternoons (when they're both on the job), yet being equals at the Thursday evening community plenary. This can get awkward.

o  Entrepreneurs tend to keep their eye more closely on the bottom line when assessing community proposals. For others, community living is mainly a social experiment, to enhance the stimulation and quality on one's life. When finances are mainly a personal concern (rather than a group issue), the steady insertion of financial analysis into group conversations can be experienced as sand in the gears. How much weight should be given to the question of financial impact, short of bankruptcy?

o  One of the key spectra that most groups need to manage is risk tolerant members living with the risk averse. While most groups are reasonably clear about their common values and do a decent job of screening prospectives for a good fit in that regard, there is typically little attention given to where a would-be member positions themselves relative to risk—with the end result that the membership is all of over the map. As you might expect, entrepreneurs tend to be more risk tolerant; non-entrepreneurs the reverse.

[For the risk averse, it can be exhausting listening to a steady stream of new things to try; what's exciting for the risk tolerant is a nightmare for the risk averse. Consequently, they come to dread meetings.

Going the other way, it's a drag for the risk tolerant, every time they introduce a new idea, to be offered up a steady diet of worry and caution from the risk averse—sucking the life out of the conversation. Consequently, they come to dread meetings.

Unaddressed, everyone loses!] 

Ironically, unless groups have sufficient skill in the social dimension (being able to talk authentically, yet compassionately about hard things), they are unlikely to be able to handle this normal range of diversity well, which undercuts their ability to be economically vibrant. 

It's eerie how much these dimensions of sustainability interrelate.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Group Works: Tend Relationships

This entry continues a series in which I'm exploring concepts encapsulated in a set of 91 cards called Group Works, developed by Tree Bressen, Dave Pollard, and Sue Woehrlin. The deck represents "A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings."

In each blog, I'll examine a single card and what that elicits in me as a professional who works in the field of cooperative group dynamics. My intention in this series is to share what each pattern means to me. I am not suggesting a different ordering or different patterns—I will simply reflect on what the Group Works folks have put together.

The cards have been organized into nine groupings, and I'll tackle them in the order presented in the manual that accompanies the deck:

1. Intention
2. Context
3. Relationship
4. Flow
5. Creativity
6. Perspective
7. Modeling
8. Inquiry & Synthesis
9. Faith

In the Relationship segment there are 10 cards. The keystone pattern in this segment is labeled Tend Relationships, so that's where I'll begin. Here is the image and text from that card:

We take care of each other to reach the goals we are striving—to get there in one piece, together. Balancing a focus on task and product with nurturing relations between people sustains organizations and movements for the long haul.

This is an important pattern. At the very heart of cooperative living is getting stuff done in such a way that relationships are enhanced—rather than something that's on hold while you "work." Some people conduct their lives as if work and relationships are in two separate compartments: they work 9-5, M-F and then enjoying relationships in the evenings or on weekends (after the dishes are done and the kids have been put to bed). In cooperative culture we're trying to weave relationships into the very fabric of everyday life.

At their best, healthy, robust relationships should be an asset in group dynamics—not because it leads to uniform thinking and low conflict, but because it provides leverage on problem solving. To be clear, I'm talking about how relationships can play an important. active role in problem solving, not settling merely for the hope that relationships can sustain the strain of disagreement.

There is a prevalent notion among cooperative groups that there's dynamic tension between "product people" and "process people," which supports the concept that meetings are a zero-sum game between these two orientations, where focus on one comes at the expense of the other. This dichotomy is pernicious and unhelpful. Groups function best when they pay attention to both product and process, rather than battling over which will prevail at any given moment.

My idea (and the spirit, I believe, that undergirds this pattern) is that product—work on clarifying and resolving issues of group import—is more surely and comprehensively done when group members open their hearts as well as their minds, and weigh energy and feelings as well as facts and opinions. In fact, I think it's more efficient. Though the initial meeting may take longer, work done with concordant energy rarely comes back to bite you in the butt. Work done without regard to energy is often brittle and tends to result in pockets of disgruntlement, where individuals feel steamrolled or blown off. Cleaning up the blow back makes a mockery of any claims from those who rave about how efficiently the group reached a decision.

Going the other way, group work is not all white light and good juju. Sure there are moments when the energy and heart connection are transcendent, but one of the main reasons to focus on the flow is that after you have resolved any "disturbances in the Force," you are well positioned to get into creative problem solving. If you are protecting the purity of a heart moment by resisting the suggestion to "contaminate" it with a plenary discussion about how to get the dishes done after Sunday potluck, or what to do about dog shit accumulating on the sidewalks, you're missing the chance to get heart and mind pulling in tandem.

The interesting case is when people disagree on significant matters. Does the group lean into relationships in those moments, or away from them? Even if you buy the theory of what I'm saying, how do you actually do this blending of content-laden apples with energy-infused oranges?

While there's not one right answer, I'd say the key is tracking the energy sufficiently to know (sense?) when you need to pause and make sure someone hasn't fallen off the hay wagon. Unaligned energy can manifest in myriad ways (it's not always high drama):
o  Confusion
o  Reactivity
o  Overwhelm
o  Sense of threat
o  Zone out
o  Nervousness
o  Uncertainty
o  Vague discomfort
o  Inappropriate humor

While it's not always right to stop the conversation to check out what's going on for someone displaying any of the above symptoms. it's sometimes right. In groups that Tend Relationships well, there is permission to do this and members develop a sense for the right times and the right ways to go about it, thus balancing the emerging needs of the individual with—not instead of—the care and feeding of the group.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ecovillage Education Redux

I have a friend named Kurt. He and his wife Alline live with me at Dancing Rabbit, where they operate the Milkweed Mercantile—which is a unique combination of down home cafe/bar + eco-B&B + green general store. They've been open for business since 2010 and were among the first brave folks to launch an internal business in the ecovillage.

Kurt sums up there near-term profit potential with the witticism, "We're making tens of dollars."

I tell that story because my wife, Ma'ikwe has pulled together an internal DR business of her own, Ecovillage Education US, with more or less the same prospects for remuneration—which is to say, if we said we were doing it for the money you'd accuse us of not paying attention. 

Last summer I was part of the faculty that delivered EEUS' inaugural 37-day immersion course in sustainability education, most of which happened in a classroom only a three-minute walk from where we live. This year we're hoping to do it again.
Last year we had 10 students. This year we're aiming for at least 12. To help us get there we're conducting an Indiegogo campaign—going on now through February 6. Our goal is to raise $14,000, the lion's share of which will be used to create a scholarship fund to help deserving students bridge the gap between their thirst for knowledge and the limitations of their pocketbook.

If we reach our target, there will be enough to also fund professional videography of the 2014 program and to purchase additional course materials. If you're inspired to help make this training happen, I invite you to click on the hyperlink above and make a donation. While any amount will be helpful, donations of $27 and above will earn you free perks. In fact, for $352 (I'm not sure where these numbers came from) you can even get two hours of phone consultation with me about anything having to do with cooperative group dynamics.

Working for Love and Money
When Ma'ikwe first offered the EEUS program in 2012, the budget called for paying faculty and staff at the rate of $10/hour. It would have gone up some if we'd had more students than the minimum, but we didn't get enough enrollment that year and the course got canceled. Last year, we had just enough students to make it happen, and teachers got paid $12/hour.

Now I realize that if we get a $2 bump in hourly compensation each year, the numbers will start to look pretty handsome by the time I'm 104. But I'm not counting on that to finance my old age. 

When Ma'ikwe showed her budget to European experts who'd already delivered a number of these courses in other parts of the world, their first response was, "Well, here's your problem: you're paying teachers." Huh? One of the components of this training is economic sustainability. What's financially sustainable about working for nothing? What kind of message does that send students?

While it's great to have teachers with fire in their bellies for delivering the curriculum—in fact, I wouldn't want it any other way—we also want teachers with money in their pocket for delivering the curriculum.

This isn't about anyone getting rich (excepting in experience); it's about right relationship, and having the delivery convey a message that's congruent with the curriculum. We figure it takes a village to raise a sustainability program, and we're hoping that you'll be part of our virtual village.

P.S. It turns out that the Indiegogo campaign just happens to end on Ma'ikwe's 44th birthday, Feb 6. So if you're needing ideas about what to get her, how about… a $44 donation. Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cautionary Tales in Cooperative Leadership

In my previous blog I outlined the incredible variety of ways in which leadership can manifest in a cooperative setting, and tried to illuminate how groups get in trouble by not making clear what kinds of qualities they want in their leaders—and then creaming them afterwards for failing to live up to standards that were never articulated or agreed upon. 

This is a problem for two reasons: 
a) When boundaries have not been defined, how the heck can leaders be expected to know when they've crossed them? In fact, backing up, how can would-be leaders do a reasonable job of self-assessing their suitability for filling leadership roles when the qualities have not been laid out?

b) What is wanted is likely to be, to some extent, situation specific—which means that a person can do an excellent job of bringing certain qualities of leadership to a task, only to be criticized for not bringing other qualities because the leader and the observer are not evaluating performance the same way. This aspect of the dynamic is not so much about the leader operating in a fog (they have a clear idea of how to serve the group well) as it is about the leader and the observer not singing from the same hymnal. 

In this follow-up essay, I'm going to explore a handful of additional ways that leadership in cooperating settings is fraught with navigational hazards. (Did someone tell you this was going to be easy?)

A. Leadership Damage from the Mainstream
We all bring to the experiment of cooperative culture personal experiences of leadership damage (by which I mean stories of hurt and disappointment—even disillusionment—with leaders having misused power for the benefit of some, and at the expense of others). Because this phenomenon is one of the express things that many people are hoping to get away from in seeking community*, there is often a knee-jerk suspicion about why someone is motivated to put themselves forward to fill a leadership role.

* While the overwhelming majority of people who approach FIC looking for information about intentional communities are seeking ones where leadership and power are broadly diffused, there are a number of successful communities with an identified leader, or leadership core (effectively an oligarchy) and that is every bit as legitimate a model as groups where all members have a say in decision making. As far as the Fellowship is concerned, it's all a matter of what consenting adults agree to.

Because this old damage can result in bad motivation getting projected onto leaders in cooperative settings, it can be quite delicate sorting out whether the leader has an out-of-control ego, or the critical person is having trouble distinguishing a leader with whom they have an honest difference of opinion or clash of styles, from someone hooked on self-aggrandizement. Who's seeing things clearly and how do you tell?

Hint: Is the leader's first response outrage? While it may seem obvious what the "right" answer is (why would the leader be so reactive if their motivations were innocent?), don't be so quick to judge! In many cases a person chooses to accept leadership with an intent to serve. In their heart, they are making a gift; in the their mind it is sacred trust. When those conditions obtain, questions about one's motivation land as a dagger to the heart, and can be extremely difficult to receive with grace. When your integrity is questioned, reactivity is not necessarily a symptom of guilt.

Caution: Further complicating the matter, the leader may indeed have an unhealthy desire to be in control and hiding it from themselves under the banner of selfless service (Josef Mengele dressed as Mother Teresa) Ai-yi-yi!

B. Imbalance of Criticism and Appreciation
Because leaders are the ones who, well, lead the group, they tend to be the ones who call forth appreciation of others for their contributions. While that's all well and good, who initiates appreciation of the leaders? It doesn't land well if people attempt to call attention to themselves, and it doesn't land well if leaders are under-appreciated for their efforts.

C. How Long Should Leaders Wait for Others to Step Up? 
While all groups with a commitment to diffusing leadership tend to support the notion of giving members the opportunity to try out leadership roles (within reason), there's nuance to having this go well. Not everyone is equally equipped or motivated to serve as a leader and pushing someone into it can be counterproductive (traumatizing the individual and yielding poor service to the group). This is why strict rotations that include the entire membership are often clunky (I have no problem with a rotation for doing dishes; I do have a problem with everyone-takes-a-turn meeting facilitation.)

In an environment where a leader is encouraged to step down and make room for someone else, notice the dilemma for the outgoing leader who sees what needs to happen and is struggling with others not stepping up, or a replacement who is slow to take the bit in their mouth. It can be excruciating, and hard to watch progress (for the group) suffer in service to the strategic goal of giving the new person time to find their sea legs.

D. How People Learn the Wrong Lesson by Observing Leaders in Action
In moving from competitive to cooperative culture we're intentionally shifting away from institutionalized hierarchy. That does not, however, mean that no one (or no committee) should be given authority to act on behalf of the group. In fact, it is often highly inefficient to not delegate authority widely—especially in larger groups. What you don't want are fiefdoms, agenda controlling conveners, or the arbitrary use of power.

Multiple times I've witnessed people struggle to understand the essence of the above paragraph. They would watch someone exercise power with discernment, yet miss the discernment part; they only digested the exercise of power. Then, when it was their turn in a position of power, they used what they'd seen others do as a justification for acting preemptively, or claiming the right to act without review—because that's what they thought, mistakenly, others were doing.

Here are a handful of examples of train wrecks that I've witnessed based on this misunderstanding:

Example 1
Back in the early years of FIC we had a person who deeply desired the cachet of being an FIC Board member. What decided for the Board that this was not a good idea was watching the person bait a representative of a community network that was sent to our meetings to explore relationships. The representative's community had a defined spiritual path and the would-be FIC Board member lived in a secular community. Even though FIC expressly does not take a position about spiritual matters (see the italicized paragraph above) our eager beaver took it upon himself to challenge the guest about the internal workings of their community. Not only was this ungracious hosting, it demonstrated intolerance in an arena that the Fellowship purposefully intended to be accepting about. Ugh.

The young person had seen other FIC Board members ask hard questions of each other and thought that that was the culture we were trying to promote. He missed the respectful context in which the questions were posed, and the boundaries around what kinds of questions were fair game.

Example 2
FIC has produced or co-produced many events over its 27-year history. Sometimes we did well financially, and sometimes we didn't. As a consequence of our up-and-down record, the Board learned to be cautious about risk assessment. After a particularly disastrous experience where the coordinator demanded considerable autonomy and we lost $18,000, the Board insisted on more oversight as a condition of doing other events. 

When we next attempted an event, the person who filled the role of coordinator (which they did ably) chafed at the Board's degree of oversight. He considered it micromanaging, and threatened to quit if not allowed more latitude. It was pretty awkward.

The new coordinator had come from a successful corporate career where he'd learned to fight for his team, and he brought that adversarial mindset into the FIC where it didn't land well—even among the other team members, who could see the tension rising.

While the event went well (whew), it took some time to repair the damage to relationships because the new guy didn't see how the Board had a paramount need for certain kinds of information to met its fiduciary responsibilities. He interpreted the questions as a lack of trust in him, when the Board was trying to live up to the trust placed in it to guide the organization safely. In the competitive, corporate world, information can be used as a weapon and a coin of power; in the cooperative world it's a fundamental tool of trust building.

Example 3
At Sandhill Farm we are in the habit of rotating the role of plenary facilitator among all who are willing to do it. Because our numbers are small, this is not that big a job and we allow the facilitator to contribute to the conversation as a community member. In essence, the facilitator sets up logistics for the meeting, decides on the order of the agenda, and directs how to focus the conversation. All of that said, the prime directive is serving the needs of the group, to the extent that that can be discerned.

While this has mostly worked fine, we once had a member who basically experienced facilitators as having god-like power and used her turn in that role to simply do whatever she felt like doing, without apparent regard to what others wanted. Most of us perceived this as a gross misuse of the facilitator's power, but this member didn't see what she'd been doing as any different from what other facilitators did. She missed the part where the facilitator was carefully reading the group and sensing what would work best.

Example 4
One of the key challenges of an organization that lasts more than a generation is successfully negotiating a demographic transition, where the original core passes the baton to a younger set. As a 27-year-old nonprofit, FIC is facing that now. 

It's a non-trivial puzzle knowing when the new folks have digested enough of the culture and mission of the organization to turn them loose, or how much time they should spend on a yellow light, demonstrating their competence in their area of responsibility before giving them a green light. We've experienced push back from new people who feel they should be given their head right out of the box, with minimal supervision.

The problem is not one of intentional mischief; rather it's that the new person doesn't know what they don't know, and tends to chafe at being reined in. In their view, they're competent and all the checks and reviews are just so much red tape or medling, inhibiting them from doing their job.

Part of what makes this hard to sort out is that new people will naturally do some things differently from what has gone before and that doesn't necessarily mean they don't understand what's wanted or the best way to align actions with mission.

Example 5 
For many years FIC had a program manager who operated alone and did a solid job. Then, when their area expanded operations and required additional staff, it turned out that the manager did not treat staff with the same respect that Board extended to the manager, and it became a problem.

From the Board's perspective, we had been modeling a collaborative culture all along. From the manager's perspective, they didn't understand why their views didn't prevail at times (or why the Board inserted itself into their domain at all) and felt arbitrarily dismissed. If the Board could do that to the manager, why wasn't it OK for the manager to treat staff that way?

And here we'd thought we'd been diligent about explaining to the manager our reasoning  whenever we went in a different direction than the one that person favored. Sigh. So much for good intentions.

The Way Out
As I reflect on the issues in cooperative leadership that I've tried to illuminate in this blog and my previous one I have two recommendations.

1. Talk About It
I recommend that all cooperative groups have a conversation about what's wanted from its leaders and come up with a statement that captures the essence of what the group can agree on. This provides guideposts for would-be leaders to know what is likely to get supported (and by omission, what is likely to get your wrist slapped), and a basis for a conversation about any action that draws a bad reaction—allowing the group to separate a problematic behavior from the judgment that the leader is an unacceptable person.

2. Don't Underestimate the Work Needed to Effect Culture Shift
The strongest lesson I can distill from the stories I told above is that it's hard work shifting culture from competitive to cooperative, and that it's naive to think that because you've written about it and explained it carefully to someone once or twice that the lesson will have been fully digested. Survival-of-the-fittest conditioning dies hard.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cooperative Leadership from A to Z

I've spent almost all of my adult life (from age 23 onward) seeking, developing, and promoting cooperative culture. Progress has not been all parades and laminar flow, but it's a labor of love and I'm committed to it in my bones. (It's a relative no-brainer to object to the excesses and inequalities that are the hallmark of competitive culture.)

As a student of cooperative culture, one of the most painful things to observe is how poorly groups have done in developing healthy models of leadership and the appropriate use of power. It is, however, not enough to have a critical analysis of what one doesn't like about power and leadership in the mainstream; we have to articulate and model a constructive alternative.

Apropos of this challenge, I recently participated in an open conversation on the subject of leadership in community settings, and I want to devote this blog and the next to sharing highlights of what bubbled to the surface in that foment. 

In this opening essay I want to illuminate the amazing breadth of ways in which leadership can manifest: it is decidedly not a monolithic concept. In fact, I've cooked up a whole bowl of alphabet soup describing the various facets of cooperative leadership:

A.  Accountability
Similar to N (see below), this quality is addressing the perception that someone has broken a promise or failed to keep an agreement. The leader sees to it that this does not get ignored.

B.  Bridging disparate views
Related to Y (see below), this is the ability to help people see connections that they are missing (perhaps because of the heat of the dialog, the strength of their attachment to their thinking, or their uncertainty about whether other stakeholders understand where they're coming from). One quality of leadership is the ability to articulate a pathway through the gnarly thicket of viewpoints, such that all parties find the path accessible.

C.  Covener 
This is the person who calls the meeting, makes sure notice of it and the draft agenda are circulated far enough ahead of time, responds to email queries, makes sure the minutes are posted in a timely way, and generally covers all the logistical bases. Maybe they make the coffee and sweep the floors, too.

D.  Delivering feedback in ways that the recipient can hear
Related to both N & R, this quality highlights the ability to tailor the feedback to the person, which includes sensitivity to setting, who's present, whether or not they prefer advanced notice, whether they prefer that the giver not be in active distress at the time of delivery, whether they prefer to receive it first in writing or orally… in short, it's complicated!

E.  Energy balanced with content
One of the hallmarks of cooperative culture is that it matters how you do things as much as what you do. In that context you need to track the energy in the room just as much as you're tracking what's being said, and it's a quality of leadership (often seen in effective facilitators) to be cognizant of both aspects and figure out the best way to blend them in the moment.

F.  Following through
This is the flip side of A (being accountable oneself), and a version of I, where the leader is careful to deliver on commitments, and to walk their talk.

G.  Grace under pressure
There is a special quality about being able to perform well in an emergency (a tornado has ripped a section of roof off the common house), or under a severe time constraint (the $150/hour bulldozer hired to do excavation work nicked an unknown live power cable; now what?).

H.  Handling appreciation well
This is: a) seeing that others are appreciated for their contributions to the collective (either publicly and privately, depending on the recipient's preference and the needs of the group); and b) modeling the ability to receive appreciation with grace (by which I mean not deflecting it) when it's their turn to get recognized.

I.  Inspiring others
This comes in two flavors: either by deed—pulling others into engagement (or continuing to stay engaged) simply through modeling engagement themselves ("If so-and-so can do it, so can I"); or by word—accomplishing the same thing through persuasive oratory or compelling writing.

J.  Judicious
The is more subtle than knowledge. It's about being trusted to be fair and balanced in the assignment of tasks, in offering public praise for other people's contributions, and in how—and how frequently—they use their power.

K.  Keeper of knowledge & tradition
This can refer to a deep understanding of the group's history (including why as well as what), the group's agreements, where things are kept, or who to call when trouble arises. It can also be the person who leads ritual in the group: the hierophant, who invokes the scared and the spirit of all that has gone before.

L.  Little Dutch Boy
This is taking a hit for the team—not necessarily because they are the best qualified, or because they need to be the hero, but because it needs to be done and no one else is putting their thumb in the dike.

M.  Minimally reactive
Your effectiveness as a leader can be significantly compromised if group members experience you as prone to reactivity, or if you have a reputation as someone who seizes up or gets dogmatic under pressure.

N.  Naming hard things
Related to the emotional strength mentioned above in D, this is more about the ability to name a problem accurately—especially when there's reluctance or fear in the group to go there. Often this entails giving someone direct critical feedback about their behavior.

O.  Organizing 
This is administrative leadership, inspiring others by their ability to juggle many balls (with minimal drops); by their deftness with slotting the right people into the right tasks; by their attention to detail.

P.  Protecting and promoting opportunities for others to grow into leadership
In cooperative culture, there tends to be a high value placed on sharing skills that the group relies on, and one of those is leadership itself (assuming it's well-defined). The effective leader actively works at grooming replacements, and appreciates that different leaders will make different choices than they would.

Q.  Questioning the status quo
This is where people are pulled along or are inspired to be more creative in the presence of someone facile with new ideas or willing to experiment with novel ways of doing things. ("That looks like fun! Let me see what I can do.") Note that this kind of leader can be seen as the opposite of K.

R.  Reaching out to give succor
This might be styled "emotional leadership," where the guide brings the group into the heart realm, setting aside (for a time) the affairs of the head and the hands. It is about holding people when they are in distress—be it rage, grief, befuddlement, or tears.

S.  Strategic thinking
This is the ability to grok and balance: a) the needs of the group at present; b) the anticipated needs of the group in the future (which should include an allowance for a reasonable amount of shift in the composition of the group over time); and c) the goals of the group. When wrestling with proposals that have a long-term impact it is relatively easy to get out of round, and to emphasize one aspect ahead of the others. The leader holds the whole.

T.  Transparency about thoughts and actions
In cooperative culture there tends to be a high value placed on sharing information. In the case of a leader, that means letting the group know, at least in broad terms, how they came to their decisions, or why they took the actions they did. Better yet, they offer this information without having to be asked first.

U.  Undertaking hard choices
Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, all parts aren't fitting together and changes need to be made. It could be a project that needs to be reconfigured, or even abandoned; sometimes there needs to be a personnel change. These choices can be hard to face and some people are better at helping the group "bite the bullet" than others.

V.  Vulnerability
This is the reverse of G, where the leader models an emotional availability that facilitates a heart connection and a sympathetic exchange. While this tends to contradict the John Wayne stoic, tough guy, can-do image that is idealized in the mainstream culture, cooperative leaders who are not able—or willing—to let others in the group see their feet of clay are often viewed as cold-hearted (or emotionally armored) and therefore less trustworthy.

W.  Willingness to initiate
It can be hard to overcome inertia, to leave the comfort of stasis and the known world, or cut the tether to the controlled environment of planning and research to shift into action and the messiness of change.

X.  X-ray vision
This is the ability to see below the surface (or around the curve) to bring into the conversation otherwise unseen factors that can have a significant impact on the outcome. A leader in sync with the group will know when there are things missing from the consideration.

Y.  Yoking energy
The ability to bring people together to make common cause. In particular, people who are otherwise motivated to get involved, but would probably proceed independently or separately if not for the leader's efforts to get them pulling in tandem.

Z.  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
This is cheerleading; raising the energy of the group by being positive and emphasizing that the work is being done together, being done now, and being done joyously.

• • •
Lacking an explicit understanding of what we want from our leaders (which presupposes that there's broad recognition that leaders are needed—providing only that it isn't the same person in that role all the time), people filling leadership roles are left to guess at how to be. Most commonly, they will offer what is attractive to them, or that which they think they're good at. 

Given the many and varied threads of the A-to-Z tapestry displayed above, it should not come as a surprise that you may not be responded to warmly if you're offering one style of leadership when others in the group are hoping for another. The upshot of this is that leaders often feel bashed and learn to not be so quick to put their hand in the air the next time there's a call for a honcho. This is a tremendous problem, and all the more sobering when you realize that this mischief can readily be achieved without anyone being wrong or ill-intended. Ugh!

If you want leadership to be effective, you need to define what you mean by it, and the qualities you want to encourage.