query: leaders to organizers
colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Sep 26 14:31:49 CDT 2003
[ed: Lisa and John continue the conversation.]
From: "Lisa J. Marshall" <lisa at smartworkco.com>
I recommend Wilford Drath's Deep Blue Sea: Rethinking the
Sources of Leadership as one that offers three distinct models of
leadership, each appropriate it in given time and place, that would
usefully inform this conversation. At the end of the day, I think the
answer here is "it depends." It depends on how you're defining
leadership (if organizers don't have followers, how can they
organize?) and it depends on the levels of leadership maturity
available in the situation.
"Preparing for the Best"
The Smart Work Company
1365 Hamilton Street NW
Washington, DC 20011
202 829-0795 f: 202 829-5324
lisa at smartworkco.com
From: "JOHN M. BEAM" <beam at fordham.edu>
Some additional pebbles for the stone soup:
I think a more useful way to think about these issues is that there
are, broadly and imprecisely speaking, organizing functions and
leadership functions. How these are dived up is a function of
organizing model (where relevant), various contexts, and money.
I'm not convinced that the goal of organizers is to transfer all their
skills to the leaders. Division of labor can be ok. Low income
leaders are the only type of leader in public affairs who are
attacked for having access to expertise that would just come with
the job if they were CEOs or politicians or union officials.
Re/ money: It is interesting that no one responded to Shannah's
on-target point that the majority of grass roots organizations may
start out as unfunded, "volunteer" driven activity in which the folks
who are taking responsibility for the activity and mobilizing their
community hustle/luck into/negotiate one or more staff lines to
minimize a portion of the sacrifice they have been donating to their
cause. Does that make them paid leaders? So, what? Isn't that
the model for more middle class organizations ranging from
NAACP to NOW to AARP?
Re/ organizers not being leaders because they don't have a
following: Models notwithstanding, in many organizations, it is the
organizers who have the most contact with the constituency
through door knocking, flyering, phoning, etc. They frequently
know more of and more about the constituency than the leader
representing the organization's position at the press conference.
Of course they have a following. Ask any organizer who has had to
take over a group someone else organized.
Moreover, a commonly accepted definition of an organizer is that
of the person who makes things happen and keeps the plan on
track. Most frequently, this might be on the tactical level. Who
steps off the curb when the leaders freeze up and the other two
hundred people are ready to be in the street? Who points out, in a
diplomatic organizerly fashion, that the strategy the leadership is
pushing might be construed as racist by other groups in the
In the abstract, being a leader implies a range of functions. In the
concrete, the primary function of leaders in many organizations
seems to be spokesperson.
How the various functions that build and defend an organization
and mobilize a constituency are shared within a group seems most
subject to critique, if not criticism, when an organization claims by
mission or model to be about supporting and "developing"
(whatever that means) indigenous leadership. Even then, it seems
to me that ultimately the proof is in whether they do that, not how.
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