Creative Problem Solving with Leaders as Heroes and Leaders as Hosts

Right now, I’m really excited about the October 22nd leadership event in Oakland, CA-- “A Call to Fearlessness-- Discover Your True Leadership Voice to Create Community and Joy!”-- featuring internationally acclaimed trainer/educator/author Margaret Wheatley and songweaver Barbara McAfee, sponsored by Bay Area Coaches. In fact, this event is making me consider more deeply styles of leadership, and exploring what is most important to me in claiming my own “leadership voice.”

Wheatley poses the question of “leader as hero or leader as host” as a way of introducing two very different ways of viewing leadership.  Leaders as heroes like to be visibly in charge, with all decisions in their hands. In Wheatley’s latest book, Walk Out Walk On (co-written with Deborah Frieze), she comments that this style tends to go to a place where “leaders lose trust in people’s ability to self-organize and feel the need to take control . . . compliance becomes more important than creativity.”

“Leaders as hosts,” on the other hand, encourage others to create solutions to problems by inviting people to share their creativity and insights together as a community, facilitating from the bottom up rather than commanding from the top down. These types of leaders, who “walk out” of groups where an excess of top-down leadership stifles creativity and ownership by other group members, “champion values and practices that respect people, that rely on people’s inherent motivation, creativity and caring to get quality work done.”

So I’m really looking forward to being at this event and hearing how might Wheatley address the Steve Jobs phenomenon-- that of a “hero”-style leader who brought Apple computer to an apex of international success while continuing himself-- and exhorting Apple techies to be-- unrelentingly creative and “caring to get quality work done.” If he’d lived, could Steve Jobs have saved the world and its numerous problems with a leadership style that was undeniably top-down and heroic, but also compellingly creative?

Actually, what Wheatley suggests is that “pioneers” whose work and leadership is outside the box in terms of creativity in solving problems need to have a framework of “community” that actively “[encourages] one another through the trials and risks natural to those giving birth to the new in the midst of the breakdown of the old.” In his own way, Steve Jobs did create such a community-- one that included the technological wizards who implemented his visionary products, the financial backers whom he convinced to back these products in advance, and the consumers worldwide who loved owning/holding/using Apple products of all kinds.

What both Wheatley and Jobs hold in common is the understanding that leadership that helps solve large, systemic problems involves “people who have walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. [They] use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need.” Though their “caring” is about different aspects of humanity’s well-being and movement forward, they both have supported people worldwide in perceiving new options for how they live and work in the communities of their choice.

For further details and registration for the Bay Area Coaches leadership event, “A Call to Fearlessness-- Discover Your True Leadership Voice to Create Community and Joy!”, please go to www.bayareacoaches.org.   [Note: Coaches can get 5 CCEUs (2 in core competency) for attending the October 22nd event or registering for the event simulcast.]