We. The Collective. For the greater good. Team over individual. The sum is greater than the parts…
The principles of team leadership have been intensifying for as long as I can remember. In particular, by the time I was completing my business undergraduate and my Masters in Business Administration, development of team-based competencies were paramount. We were embedded and graded based on team performance as well as individual performance and told that leading teams and being effective team members were essential preparation for the 21st century workplace.
The reality of my life in organizations and in my organization development practice have been mixed. I have led and/or worked on ‘teams’ ranging from a loosely connected group of practitioners who share resources and collaborate as needed, to intact teams co-located together and working toward a shared goal, to virtual teams. Yes, teamwork has been expected, but none of my workplaces to-date have rewarded team performance or truly instilled collective accountability. And yes, I have been able to use the team leadership and team competencies I learned in business school…to a point. Over the past decade or so, of my work and practice, I have noticed the r/evolution and expansion of a new kind of team and team leadership. It has come by many names – systems leadership, network leaders, grassroots leadership, bottoms-up leaders, and collective leadership and collective impact to name a few. I call it We-leadership.
I define We-leadership as everyday leadership actions, taken by formal and informal leaders to organize and lead change in organizational or social problems that matter to or impact them. The difference between the team leadership I was taught and this type of leadership in my mind is the type of problem it is applied to, the scale, intent and motivation behind these leadership actions. We- leadership is focused on relevant problems that matter, whether emergent or longstanding, that are typically complex problems with no right answers. These are BIG issues and we-leadership actors are tired of waiting around for someone else to take action for change. The scale of we-leadership goes beyond a single issue or problem and spans beyond organizational boundaries to the collective, across systems and across the globe. The intent is to innovate, to look for new possibilities and breakthrough solutions which are sometimes very simple. The motivation is to make a difference, to serve the collective. We-Leadership isn’t financially motivated, it is driven by passion.
We-Leadership is emerging all over the globe, spreading and made possible in many ways by our global connectedness, access to more information and ability to collaborate and share knowledge and resources. Enacted at its best, it is showing that we must radically rethink traditional leadership and leadership development models and that the balance of power lies in this way of leading. This is also true of how leadership is being enacted in Africa. My recent research into what effective leading in and for Africa looks like confirmed that we-leadership is blazing the trail of change across the continent. Change is happening, where everyday leaders are no longer waiting on political, formal leaders to take action. Powered by passion and sheer grit to see things change, everyday African We-leadership actors are changing the narrative of failed leadership. It looks like the young woman who turned her frustration at the precious little being done for ebola survivors into a movement to restore dignity and dreams to them. It looks like innovators mobilizing action to advance science and technology breakthroughs on the continent. It looks like young leaders taking centre stage to change the economic future of the continent, through collaboration. There are countless others. And this transformational We-leadership, it’s contagious. By the end of my research, I was inspired. This followed a serendipitous meeting with two other African women at a conference, where very brief conversation signalled that we had shared passion for African We-leadership. A few emails and a skype call later, we, were also in action.
We Collective accountable leaders, taking unified action
Will The leadership WILL, grit and courage to do something, anything, now and for the future i.e. action-oriented and aspirational leadership
Lead Everyday leaders, motivated by collective service, in every sector, including emerging leaders from marginalized groups
Africa A focus on a prosperous continent, where divides are bridged and leaders work across boundaries and borders to achieve a broader success.
As the oft quoted African parable [still trying to find out which country this parable is from to no avail!] fittingly goes:
– If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together –
See more about the We Will Lead Africa Call for Chapter Submissions here
The We Will Lead Africa team are currently accepting submissions, and are looking for diverse stories of innovation, action and progress with a demonstrated impact on the continent; representing all geographic regions of Africa and a variety of socio-cultural and industry sectors. Stories may be submitted by individuals or groups of authors that are African by lineage, heritage, citizenship, immigration and/or self-identification, living anywhere in the world.