Team Organization LO17064

Jessica Lipnack (
Tue, 17 Feb 1998 11:00:33 -0500

Replying to LO17045 --

J Bryant writes replying to LO17014 --


>Your post has brought out the semantic difficulty in this discussion. I
>would say that a team "where leadership shifts, depending on the task at
>hand" is a team without a leader. Of course every team has people who are
>in the fore when accomplishing a particular task. That is the beauty of a
>team -- an eclectic collection of talents, expertise, experiences, and
>personalities, and a single task will require a certain subset of those to
>be working the hardest or the most visibly. But that doesn't create a
>hierarchy, in my mind.

J.B. -- I take a different view. Multiple leadership -- or "polycephalous
leadership," to use the term put forth by Virginia Hine in her
ground-breaking 1977 paper, "The Basic Paradigm of a Future Socio-Cultural
System," is the hallmark of 21st century organizations. Hine called these
"SPINs" -- Segmented, meaning that each member is autonomous;
Polycephalous, meaning "many leadered,' or literally many-headed;
Ideological, meaning focused on a unique set of beliefs,principles, and
purposes; and Network, meaning the horizontally articulated organization
that has become popular in recent years.

Hine and her coauthor on several books, Univ of Minn. anthropologist
Luther Gerlach, first made this observation about African tribes.
Typically, anthropologists would observe the tribes and report that they
had no leader. But the tribes themselves reported otherwise. They felt
that they have many leaders: Chief Warrior, Chief Midwife, Chief
Herbalist, etc.

Such is the case with teams, IMHO. The execution of what an individual
excels at provides leadership at different moments in time -- sometimes
task, sometimes social -- but almost without exception, providing
direction in a particular area that others learn from and emulate.

Western culture finds it very difficult to swallow this. We want single
leaders with authority and resist the idea that leadership can be
situational, fluid, hand-changing, dynamic.

Fewer bosses, more leaders. Leaderful, not leaderless. Everywhere I look,
I see teams brimming with leaders. I think this is very good news.


Jessica Lipnack <>
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Jessica Lipnack <>

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