Tag Archive | leadership

The two tests of an organizer

There are many ways you can influence a group. One of the most common formats is the leader/citizen model. But this approach has all kinds of problems with it from misrepresenting constituent voices to corruption to ego mania. What some of us in the radical community propose instead is a organizer/facilitator model.

people on gears

There are two important tests for the difference between organizers and leaders. The first is the scope test. Leaders are responsible for big ideas, agendas and quests. They need to find people to do all of the tasks (or find people who find people to do them). Leaders are busy managing the collective resources of the group to complete the shared vision.

No job is too low for an organizer. They fit in where needed. They help draw the agenda and vision for the group from the best ideas of the group. Organizers are busy too, but they are working on being part of the ad hoc collections of teams and task forces that get things done. Sometimes they manage these, other times they are doing things anyone could do.

hands of color sillotte

The second test is a credit test. When the work of a leader is completed and the populace is asked what has happened, most will respond by saying “Look at the wonderful things our leader has accomplished.” When an organizer is finished the people will say “Look at the great things we have accomplished.”

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Ringleaders versus Rainmakers

“Is he like their ringleader?” Valerie asked.

“More like their rainmaker.” Sky replied at the communities conference meeting, which sparked a whole conversation about organizing models in the progressive/radical movement.

rainmaker rural

The ringleader is running their own gang.  Oft charismatic, this person offers a vision or at least a direction and strongly shapes the role of other gang/tribe members.  There is a sense that elevating the ring leader and their agenda will strengthen your whole house and that often deferring to their wisdom in terms of action will advance the members beyond where they would be outside of the collective.

rainmaker native pouring water image

Rainmakers are resource people and networkers.  They need not be charismatic nor have leadership skills, they need to  know how to fix and manifest things.  They probably don’t know how to get electricity from the nearby light poll hooked up to the recently occupied squat, but they know the person who can do it and they know how to get her to come over soon, so we can stop using these candles before we burnt the whole place down by accident.

rainmaker_main

It was a good day yesterday.  Inspiring conversation with BB and Rob Jones and Ali.  And also this personal clarification of roles, that i am more the guy who manifests stuff than the charismatic leader.

The three rules of organizing

I was bred to be a leader.  I came from a privileged class background, went to a fancy school (which i have been visiting for the last few days with my mother), have had access to money and contacts for much of my life.  Everyone thought i would go on to law or business school and be a politician or captain of industry.

Let me show you the way

Instead i feel thru the cultural cracks.  i got radicalized and became an organizer.  And while there are certainly similarities in these two roles, the difference in critical:

No job is too low for an organizer

When i was working in Europe i put some energy into developing what i felt were the three most critical rules for organizers which i think are:

1) Don’t get stuck

2) Don’t overwork the problem

3) Find Allies

The first rule is really a call for creative problem solving, if the solutions you are trying are not working, shift approaches, ask for assistance or use your imagination harder.

The second rule is a mix of recognizing when you  are unable to obtain your objective and equally important not investing extra energy into situations which you have already been successful.

The last rule is one of the places where leaders and organizers most differ, because for leaders this rule translates into “Find minions or followers”.

Organizers want to co-empower, leaders want to be calling the shots.  Which do you want to be when you grow up?