This is Joe Raelin, the author of the Leaderful Fieldbook.

In this space, we look forward to having a wide-open dialogue with our readers to share comments, questions, experiences, and lessons in bringing leaderful practices into our organizations across the five levels of the Fieldbook – individual, interpersonal, team, organization, and network.

I will review this blog space on a regular basis and respond as quickly as I can to any queries and comments. Occasionally, I will offer my own experiences and thoughts on the leaderful world, including some new activities. Please also offer exercises that you think should be added to the Fieldbook!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Compensation in Leaderful Teams

I have been asked to comment on whether there is any justification for paying 'designated leaders' more than other members of a leaderful team. To this important query, I would point out that, indeed, there is little argument to justify paying various team members more than others when all are participating for the common good. However, we don’t have a leaderful world in most organizations, and, as a result, some individuals may have designations which require them to take more responsibility than others – and, according to most pay systems, we pay for incremental allocations of responsibility. I can safely say, however, that in most organizations experimenting with leaderful practice, the distribution of pay is at a significantly lower ratio than in the conventional hierarchical organization. So, back to the query, if the ‘designated leader’ has particular responsibilities to serve at the boundary of the organization, representing the group with other stakeholders, and if a democratic process of engagement prevails, it may well be the case that the group members may agree that this individual should be paid more for this level of responsibility. In a fully leaderful organization where learning, as well as democratic participation, are fundamental attributes, it would be desirable that others have a chance to perform the boundary role.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Leading Leaderfully within the Occupy Movements

I was initially asked to blog on the use of leaderful practice within the Occupy Movements and posted the blog on the Occupy Cafe website. Here it is in its entirety:

It is often said by Occupy adherents that their leadership is not leaderless but leaderful. When I first introduced the leaderful concept ( see, e.g., or ),
I relied on this same derivation, but went on to say that any entity or movement can be leaderful when everyone is participating and not dependent on any one individual to mobilize action for others. Further, the leadership is occurring at the same time and all together, meaning that the leadership is both concurrent and collective.

Concurrency and collectiveness are two of the so-called “four C’s” of leaderful practice. In concurrency, we stipulate that there can be more than one leader operating at the same time, so the members willingly and naturally share power. In collectiveness, we stipulate that leadership can be a mutual phenomenon, a practice of engagement not based on the heroics of any one individual.

Leaderful practice is also collaborative. All members of the organization, not just the position leader, may speak for the entire movement. They may advocate a point of view that they believe can contribute to the common good, but they are equally sensitive to the views and feelings of others. They thus seek to engage in a public dialogue in which they willingly open their beliefs and values to scrutiny. It is through dialogue that collaborative leaders co-create their enterprise.

Finally, leaderful managers are compassionate. By demonstrating compassion, one extends unadulterated commitment to preserving the dignity of others. Each member of the organization is valued, regardless of his or her background or social standing, and all viewpoints are solicited regardless whether they conform to current thought processes. In practicing compassion, leaders take the stance of a learner who sees the adaptability of the movement as dependent upon the contribution of others.

So, we have the ingredients for establishing a leaderful culture. Unfortunately, leaderful practice is not typically the default option when it comes to exhibiting leadership. The individual heroic model still persists. I notice that even the media don’t have the necessary language to report on the leaderful concept because reporters are not accustomed to leadership being organized in this way. But what we are witnessing is a movement wherein people are learning to lead together in the world. Leadership becomes a democratic practice based on the use of critical dialogue in which participants learn to engage through a reflective practice that allows them to observe and experiment with their own collective tacit processes in action. Through dialogue, participants are able to reach reasoned, informed, and public-spirited decisions of common concern. Further, as they operate in this way, they can shape their communities for the better, that is, in ways that are more responsive to their mutual needs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leaderful Development from a Cognitive Point of View

We have commented here and elsewhere that transitioning from conventional leadership to leaderful practice is often a challenge behaviorally, pointing to the need to inform a team about its opportunity to adopt more leaderful behaviors, such as assuming more responsibility for the agenda, taking risks, valuing differences, and the like. However, leaderful development is also a challenge from a cognitive point of view. Cognitive psychologists (such as David Perkins) would contend that a concept like leaderful practice might be considered “troublesome” knowledge. It is troublesome because it disturbs but then transforms familiar world views, such as the need for leaders to protect us from existential anxiety. So, we might consider leaderful practice to be a threshold concept and, in a paper that I am working on with Jeff Yip, we see threshold concepts as often requiring a change in thinking and in practice. However, the process of conceptual change can result in transformed practice because it can result in demonstrable improvements in critical reasoning and in problem solving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Leaderful Governance within the University

The following is a plank from the final draft of the strategic plan of Northeastern State University in Oklahoma that focuses exclusively on shared leadership practices. It represents the ethos of how the university views its governance over the next five years. I thought readers of this blog should see it because of its unapologetic endorsement of what I would term a leaderful culture. How would you like to work in this environment! Here it is:

Strategic Goal 3: Build and reinforce an environment that values full inclusion, collaboration and shared leadership in the life of the university and in all
external relationships.

Our commitment to inclusion, collaboration and shared leadership is designed to harness the power of diverse skills, backgrounds, experiences and capabilities of our many stakeholders. Our commitment to these values drives the way we act, how we treat each other and how we make decisions in every aspect of university life.
A culture that embraces inclusion encourages all to feel that he or she is a valued member of our larger community, and that each individual’s contributions to the university is recognized, welcomed, and respected. Collaboration encourages and rewards cooperation across functions/ colleges/departments, among faculty, staff, students, and alumni, among leaders and associates at all levels of the organization, across our three campuses, and between internal and external constituents. Shared leadership provides meaningful opportunities for input from all stakeholders, builds mutual trust and ensures transparency in decision-making.
An institution that embraces inclusion, collaboration and shared leadership:
Ensures equal access to all services and opportunities;
Proactively seeks input from diverse groups ensuring that these voices are not only heard, but actively sought;
Prioritizes robust, comprehensive and honest two-way communication at all levels;
Develops specific mechanisms and structures that encourage collaboration across the university in a broad spectrum of activities and programs, specifically capitalizing on the strength-in-diversity of our three campuses;
Creates and lives by a principle-based decision-making model that is fully transparent, includes the right stakeholders, focuses on the most important issues, values diversity, builds trust, accepts failure, and encourages leaders at all levels of the university;
Engages our alumni and external stakeholders by providing the opportunity to influence and impact the success of future generations;
Provides early information on major issues and initiatives to promote understanding and to give stakeholders an opportunity to be heard;
specifically includes those most affected, those most interested and those most capable of contributing to success in the decision-making process;
Provides professional development programs to prepare the next generation of leaders, thus guaranteeing the sustainability of Northeastern State and its partner communities.

Facilitating Learning

There is no more critical role for management than to help establish a climate for learning. How to do this? It may begin with holding reflective conversations with staff and colleagues. From the literature on expert sharing, we can point to the steps of modeling, scaffolding, and coaching. And in cases where learning hasn't been heretofore promoted, we can incrementally demonstrate leaderful behaviors that support learning, such as: endorsing risk-taking and experimentation, fostering critical reflection and questioning of existing practices and structures, tolerating ambiguity and even mistakes, and, of course, encouraging collective engagement.

The Meaning of Leadership

The word leader comes from the Anglo-Saxon, “ledan,” meaning to “go forth.” So it indeed refers to the person who stands out in front, the hero without whom the group would founder. But perhaps this meaning, which may have served ancient Europe well enough in its day, has now become outdated. Perhaps in this era, we need a new meaning to respond to our increasingly complex and networked world. Today, might leadership refer to working with others to improve themselves and to improve their community? In fact, might leadership no longer suffice as an individual trait, but rather as a practice that refers to the activity of people as they accomplish important work together?

Unsticking 'Command-and-Control' Leadership

It appears that the long tradition of humanistic proposals - be they OD, TQM, or learning organizations - have not seemed to stick in our corporate culture. Why haven't they? The reasons have to do with what are called "institutional" forces in our culture that are very tenacious. These forces, which sustain a culture of dominance and control in organizations, are certainly cultural but also legal, historical, economic, and psychological. For example, some accounts suggest that command-and-control leadership is seen as clearer and more responsive to our anxiety. This is why I have suggested the need for change agents who can promote and fortify a culture of participation and engagement within our organizations. My new leaderful fieldbook [] is designed to help such change agents (who could be internal managers or external facilitators) by providing them with an array of tools that can be used at multiple levels of change to produce a more leaderful organization. Try it, you'll like it!!!