Howard Rheingold: Discussing the Assemblies and Consensus of #OccupyWallStreet (3) – Visioning Emergent Leadership

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Howard Rheingold

Discussing the Assemblies and Consensus of #OccupyWallStreet (3): Visioning Emergent Leadership

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th November 2011

Excerpted from Sharif Abdullah:

“One of the constant mantras of the “Occupy Together” (OT) phenomenon is its “leaderless” nature. I support and applaud this… to a point.

Anyone who has come to my workshops over the past ten years knows I’ve been an advocate of “Emergence” – defined as “leaderless distributed networks of information and power”. In an Emergence, it is the system that learns, grows and adapts… without any kind of “authority” telling the various agents what to do.When it happens, it is startling, it is beautiful, and it is POWERFUL.

So, the question of whether OT needs “leadership” is tied to the question: “Is OT an Emergence?” The answer to that question is a firm “NOT YET”. And, because of that, OT is in definite need of leadership.But, a very different kind of leadership than what we’ve been used to.

First: upon what do I base my “not yet” assessment? An Emergence has five very important factors. In an Emergence…

1. The group has a large number of independent actors, all sharing information.

2. There is a lack of control over any individual’s behavior.

3. The actors share a common vision, simple values, and/or rules.

4. The actors have largely interchangeable roles.

5. The actors have the same goals and objectives.

OT clearly has #2 and #4.They clearly do NOT have #3 and #5. (I’m not sure about #1…) Without vision/ values/ goals/ objectives, OT NEEDS LEADERSHIP.A very different kind of leadership: Emergent Leadership.

We know the role of old-style leadership: tell the sheeple what to do. Whether it’s the “boss” on the shop floor, or the old-style politician wheeling and dealing in the corridors of power, leadership equals control, and control equals power.

Not in an Emergence.Someone grabbing a bullhorn and “telling” the Occupy forces what to
do would be met with derision, silence, scorn or pity. (Perhaps all of the above.) OT is – and should be – allergic to “control”.

Here’s a quote from Stephen Johnson, author of the book “Emergence”:

“Without an active leader who takes responsibility for building a network, spontaneous connection between groups emerges very slowly, or not at all.”

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