Comments: on Leadership - roles around the May Pole

Ah, that's an interesting point. You're right, I shouldn't confuse one instance of facilitation with general leadership.

At the same time, playing many roles, one of which includes facilitation, leads me to sense perhaps "acts of leadership" -- when, taken in aggregate, do constitute leadership, spread out over time.

Perhaps I need new visuals for what I think of as leadership -- since in school we were taught that leadership was George Washington crossing the Potomac on that boat looking all regal and set apart from anyone else.

Real leadership, or leadership in open source communities, has to be able to inspiring and teasing out the best in others and, as you said, filling the jobs that no one else seems willing or able to take.

I do also think that there's a relationship between forward vision and leadership, though one does not necessary beget the other.

I wonder, given your experiences, what you consider the best examples of open source leadership that you've experienced... or perhaps the worst?

Posted by Chris Messina at June 26, 2006 01:25 PM

> At the same time, playing many roles, one of which includes facilitation, leads me to sense perhaps "acts of leadership" -- when, taken in aggregate, do constitute leadership, spread out over time.

That's it! You got it!

> Real leadership, or leadership in open source communities, has to be able to inspiring and teasing out the best in others and, as you said, filling the jobs that no one else seems willing or able to take.

I don't know whether open source leadership needs to inspire and tease. For the most part, once someone is "in" they bring their own inspiration. I just don't know there, I sometimes suspect the inspiration role is much overdone?

> I do also think that there's a relationship between forward vision and leadership, though one does not necessary beget the other.

There is, but this is a correlation not a causality. There is no reason why someone else can't do the forward vision -- and rely on others to understand that and communicate it. You often find that great plans were invented by lowly staffers, only to be adopted by the high-ups.

The reason that the leaders often have the forward vision is that they are spread broad and communicate incessently, so they can bring things together in their own mind. But anyone can do that, if they have the time and breadth!

Posted by Iang at June 26, 2006 01:42 PM

Well, inspiration is necessary when folks are down and out and there's either an impending deadline or a hazy objective... A good leader should be able to push through exhaustion or confusion to bring a project or idea forward...

I guess I'm actually thinking specifically of this weekend's BarCamp in San Francisco -- which was very much an open source event where the participants built the event.

There were some awesome examples of folks stepping up and helping out -- there was also some free-riders that just soaked up other folks' hard work.

It was an interesting balance and not everyone was satisfied with the amount of volunteerism -- so the question is -- how do you create open opportunities for pitching in while not letting *everything* drop by stepping so far back that nothing gets done. Or, how do you share the responsibilities for a project, let everyone know what the goal is, do *some* of the work but also get a great deal of help and support throughout?

I guess what you're suggesting is that it's really all about communication -- and since you've made that point explicit, well, I can see how that really does play into one's success at leading without having to do everything or without becoming autocratic. Yes?

Posted by Chris Messina at June 26, 2006 02:12 PM

> I wonder, given your experiences, what you consider the best examples of open source leadership that you've experienced... or perhaps the worst?

Um. Much of my experience in this is outside the open source field, which I guess is why it is possible to translate it.

If I was to quote an example of great leadership today, it would be of Warren Buffet's decision to give his fortune to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation!

Reason? Buffet had to make a decision (that part is boring). Instead of doing it the conventional way, he looked for what he considered to be the best team in the business. He's pretty clear in stating that the reasons were that B&M are a) devoted to the task and b) experts, far more expert than others. So he deliberately wrote his own team out of the picture because he found a better team!

Second reason is that once he worked out what the good decision was, he then very carefully worked the decision through his family, his company, his shareholders, and his own Trust fund manager! That's communication -- taking a really weird oddball tough decision and convincing everyone around that this is a good thing. That's leadership!

Not exactly what you were looking for, right?

:)

Posted by Iang at June 26, 2006 02:13 PM
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