Occupy Wall Street and Positional Leadership
October 16, 2011
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I’ve been looking at the Occupy Wall Street movements through the lens of a network organization and feeling that traditional print and television media view it through the lens of a hierarchy.
The people on the street talk about it being “leaderless”. Viewed through the lens of a hierarchy that makes no sense, but from a network perspective it means there are no “positional” leaders. There certainly still are leaders, but that leadership is more likely based on energy, expertise and initiative then someone being given, or appointed to, the position. This is a situation of naturally emerging leaders versus designated leaders.
Because of my work with business executives I hear the changing demands being placed on businesses in an information-based economy. Expert speakers address my business groups and talk about the need for greater collaboration, flexibility and initiative in today’s business environment. There seem to be a lot of people involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement and its connected nodes in other cities who are demonstrating those qualities in great abundance.
There is a website called occupytogether.org created by two people who felt that there would be a need to make others aware of similar expressions of protest in other cities. No one told them to do this. No one authorized them. They just took the initiative. This is what has been preached in many businesses under the expression “it’s better to say you’re sorry then ask for permission”. Hierarchies may advocate that behavior, but they really have a difficult time adjusting to that kind of initiative. For a network it’s very natural.
Take a look at my note that contrasts hierarchies and networks in terms of characteristics. Do you see any other characteristics that apply in this situation?