New Metaphors for Leadership

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New Metaphors for Leadership by Suzanne W. Morse When tourists to one Caribbean country enter the airport customs area, two large signs greet them: Belongers and Visitors. The dichotomy is startling. While any newcomer fully expects to be a visitor, the idea of a belonger is intriguing. The volumes written today about leadership fail to recognize the motivation and the necessity of the phenomenon of belonging to leadership preparation and selection. Too often managing the tension between lea
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   New Metaphors for Leadership by Suzanne W. MorseWhen tourists to one Caribbean country enter the airport customs area, two large signs greetthem: Belongers and Visitors. The dichotomy is startling.While any newcomer fully expects to be a visitor, the idea of a belonger is intriguing. Thevolumes written today about leadership fail to recognize the motivation and the necessity of the phenomenon of belonging to leadership preparation and selection.Too often managing the tension between leadership technique and leadership possibility becomes the focal point of discussion. The heart of leadership (belonging to a community and itscommon interests) is lost. No longer are technique and position enough; rather it is this broader reach for leadership--possibility and belonging-- that will win the day. Part of the challenge issimply recruitment--getting more capable people into places where they can exercise leadership.The more difficult job is to reach out to everybody and call forth the leadership possibilities thatexist in people from all circumstances and experiences, reminding them, and ourselves, that weall are belongers.Conventional wisdom identifies two categories of leaders: those with a natural gift to organize,motivate, and inspire through word and deed; and those who learn, and desire to learn, thoseskills of leadership that make the traits of leadership possible. From my experience, communitiesand organizations need both types. The first reaction to the needs both declarative is to rejoinwith, There can be only one person at the top. While that may be true in somebody'sorganizational chart, it is not true in reality. Organizations and communities need many morethan one leader. The challenge before us as a nation and as individuals is to recognize and promote the idea that leadership is multidimensional in both application and participation. Nolonger is it desirable or even practical to build leadership pyramids--those closed, hierarchicalstructures of traditional organizational charts. Rather, the task facing organizations andcommunities is to build leadership plazas--open and inviting places that draw together a diversecitizenry.Architectural metaphors notwithstanding, leadership in its truest form is about collaborating,connecting, and ultimately catalyzing actions focused on common interests. The pyramid modelworks off the assumption that leaders are few and followers are many. While there are certaintimes when decisions must be made by a few rather than a committee, the plaza model of leadership demonstrates that the process of decision making is a crucial determinant of theultimate wisdom of the decision. This recognition that process affects outcomes allows the plazamodel to emerge--multiple levels, shared responsibility, common spaces, diverse connections--necessary elements for strong leadership. Time and time again the most successful organizationshave proven the effectiveness of the plaza model that is inclusive, draws on community talents,and supports larger actions in the community.Leadership cannot and should not be one-dimensional or singularly focused. The issues facingthe nation--community by community or organization by organization--are such that one person  or even one group is ill-equipped to meet the challenges. The complexity and interrelationship of issues require that citizens at every level have a stake in their solution.The question before us as a nation is: How do we build leadership plazas rather than leadership pyramids? We will make the first step when we make a place and space for more people to beinvolved in the decisions facing us all. We must look in board rooms and backyards for leadership bench strength. In a democracy, common action requires common deliberation.Secondly, we must develop and build skills for inclusive leadership like consensus building,collaboration, deliberation, and strategy. Leaders must know how to talk together, work together,and act together. They must feel as if they and their fellow citizens are belongers. Finally, thisnew model of a leadership plaza gives a visual image that communities and organizations mustcreate working principles of process and action that not only allow but encourage opportunitiesfor new leaders to participate in building and executing common priorities and common agendas.Our work with the Pew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative takes as its premise that the plaza model of leadership is not only right but essential. Consequently, the initiative proposes to restructure howcommunities envision and recruit civic leaders. The ten communities participating in thisinitiative are embracing the challenge of tapping the tremendous resources of citizens' combinedknowledge, experience, and insights on behalf of their communities.The litmus test for leadership will come when citizens, employees, and elected officials think of themselves and others as stakeholders for the larger good. They will ask What will we do? rather than, What will they do for us? In the Masai culture, a common greeting is Eseriannakera How are the children? The common answer is All are well. The plaza leadershipmodel is about thinking how all in our shared existence can be well.Suzanne W. Morse is executive director of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change and the PewCivic Entrepreneur Initiative.  Ten Civic Entrepreneur Cities ChosenThe Pew Partnership for Civic Change has selected ten cities to participate in the $3.68 millionPew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative (PCEI) to equip a diverse group of citizens, or civicentrepreneurs, to play a greater role in decision making in their communities. Intended to broaden and strengthen existing community leadership efforts, PCEI will work with communitiesto identify and support citizen leaders. This country's greatest challenge is to renew its spirit of civic responsibility and to developmore fully its public stewardship, says Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The PewCharitable Trusts. Our democracy requires the full range of citizen perspectives to further our community change and renewal. The Pew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative is a remarkable effort toreinvigorate and expand leadership in and for our communities. Each of the ten participating cities will work to strengthencommunity-based leadership by developing civic entrepreneurs — citizens who invest their expertise and experience in solving urgent communityproblems.Those selected as civic entrepreneurs will represent a broad range of ages and backgrounds.What they will all share is a commitment to work collaboratively to improve their communities.Civic entrepreneurs will have demonstrated this commitment through their involvement inneighborhood, civic, and religious organizations and through their work in government, business,or the nonprofit sectors. Churches, beauty parlors, offices, senior centers--these are the places where people meet,mingle, and go about the business of making their communities the places they want them to be, explains Jim Gibson, director of the DC Agenda Project and PCEI national advisory boardmember. We must meet people where they are and appreciate the different strengths they bringto the table as citizens and as leaders. In September 1997, each of the ten PCEI communities selected their first group of twenty civicentrepreneurs to participate in national and local training. Each team will develop skills toaddress a critical issue in its community. In the second year of the program, these srcinal civicentrepreneurs will serve as mentors to new teams of twenty civic entrepreneurs in eachcommunity. While the Trusts have committed to funding the program for two years,communities were selected in part based on their ability to sustain the program in its third year and beyond.Through participation in a national PCEI network, civic entrepreneurs from across the nation willhave the opportunity to share strategies for building stronger communities. Twice each year, theinitiative will convene the civic entrepreneurs from all ten cities at national training institutes toexamine the theory and practice of collaborative leadership.Through a curriculum combining presentations by seasoned community leaders, strategic planning sessions for each city, individual skill assessment and development, and experiential  learning, these institutes will challenge and equip civic entrepreneurs to tackle the tough problems at home.Each of the ten cities is structuring its local training program to suit the unique needs andopportunities of the community. Civic entrepreneurs met in each of the participating cities inSeptember to begin identifying the concrete issue they will work collaboratively to address in thecoming year. Training at both the national and local institutes will focus on practical strategies tosolve urgent and interrelated community problems. For too long the few have made decisions for the many, asserts John Parr, former president of the National Civic League and chair of the PCEI board. These ten cities participating in the PewCivic Entrepreneur Initiative will demonstrate how a broader and more collaborative model of leadership renews our public life by mobilizing citizens to confront issues--from economicdevelopment to youth opportunities--with innovation and boldness. Cities identified a range of issues crucial to their long-term health. For example, Santa Ana,California, and Jersey City, New Jersey, are working to engage increasingly diverse populationsin civic decision making. Providence, Rhode Island, and Honolulu, Hawaii, are grappling withthe challenge of neighborhood economic development in a global economy. And cities fromGreensboro, North Carolina, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, are mobilizing to build relationshipsthat cut across traditional barriers of race, class, and culture.The ten winning PCEI cities were chosen from an eligible pool of seventy-five cities. (Eligiblecities were those with central city populations between 150,000 and 400,000 according to the1990 U.S. Census.)The Pew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative is a special project of The Pew Charitable Trusts, anational and international philanthropy based in Philadelphia. The project office is located inCharlottesville, Virginia. Dr. Suzanne Morse is the executive director.Cities Selected to Participate in PCEIAlbuquerque, New MexicoAnchorage, AlaskaBaton Rouge, LouisianaGreensboro, North CarolinaHonolulu, HawaiiJersey City, New JerseyLexington, KentuckyProvidence, Rhode IslandSanta Ana, CaliforniaShreveport, Louisiana
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