Not everyone is leadership material

Not everyone can be a leader. If you choose the wrong people to be grassroots leaders, you may find they have no followers.

Not everyone can be a leader. If you choose the wrong people to be grassroots leaders, you may find they have no followers.

This post might get me in a bit of trouble.

You see, the progressive movement puts a lot of stock on the idea of grassroots leadership. To quote a line from Wobbly history as told by Utah Phillips, “We’re all leaders here.”

Except it just isn’t true.

Not everyone wants to be a leader, and not everyone who wants to be leader is cut out to be a leader.

Your job as an organizer is to build up leaders. It is to recruit, train, and nurture people who will be able to inspire and lead others in the community.

And not everyone is up for the job.

Just so you know I’m not just saying this to vent, in Tools for Radical Democracy, Minieri and Getsos write:

Although people might be doing important work, thye may or may not be leaders. For example, if a member who comes to every meeting is great at motivational speaking but cannot effectively engage with other members to make decisions, it may not be appropriate to develop her as a leader or place her in leadership situations. [Emphasis added.]

Leaders are important. Grassroots leadership is important. It is important enough to be thoughtful and intentional about. Carefully recruit leaders. Actively develop leaders. And yes, sometimes you will have to, very sensitively, deal with someone who is not cut out to be a leader.

3 thoughts on “Not everyone is leadership material

  1. Pingback: Not a leader doesn’t mean not valuable — The Warp Report

  2. Pingback: Choosing Leaders is like Choosing What to Eat: Fruit or a Twinkie? — The Warp Report

  3. Grace Potts

    This is very insightful, Chuck… and I’m glad to hear you say it. There is a fine line though, because on the one hand, as you’ve said – not everyone is cut-out for leadership. We’ve all met the folks who really aren’t up for the work they have before them. However, on the other side of that coin… You really don’t want to fall into the trap of sterotyping who you expect your leaders to be, and choosing the same type of person over and over. In fact, some who may not be suited to lead an organization in one context/ decade/ circumstance, may well be ideal in another… It’s a fine balance, and a difficult juggling act. As I’ve said before – this peacemaking stuff is hard work :o)


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