Leadership in Participatory Culture

What do we mean by leadership when we talk about it within the frame of participatory culture?

In May, Ode magazine published The Power of Many, an article about our participatory culture (rather than top down hierarchies). On the website, they also post another article about the We mentality.

Whereas leadership in hierarchical organizations, by definition, seems to be a relational position within the system, participatory culture surfaces a different filter for leadership. What is that filter? How do we know it when we see it, especially if it does not include an organizationally designated title?

Leaders within this context display, I think, the following characteristics. And I would, of course, prefer to think of them as nurturers. But to bridge from one paradigm to the new thrivable participatory one, we will use the past terminology. Leaders, then, in participatory culture, noticeably portray the following:

  • trust others and trust in the collective ability of a group
  • draw attention to commonality between participants (rather than dividing them with differences)
  • demonstrate active conscious commitment to vision, values, and goals as example to others
  • act responsively to feedback and help grow feedback loops among participants
  • show their humanity, making them credible and proving their integrity regularly
  • listen actively and deeply with distributed credit so decisions seem to come from collective
  • instill a sense of togetherness, a sense of “we can do this if we each do our part”
  • defend the collective to outsiders and represents their needs
  • hold each participant to their greatness
  • open to seeing how the pieces fit together–open to emergence
  • willing and ready for new opportunities
  • able to respond with compassion in times of stress and difficulty

Leaders in participatory community foster a sense of tribe/community as something each individual serves, uplifts, and is in turn cared for by. They presume that people are capable of being a contribution beyond their own individual wants to act for the improvement of the collective. These leaders are not afraid to be a strong example to embody the moral code of the group.

Leaders in participatory communities do not function in a top down dictatorial method–they facilitate emergence within the collective. They do not direct: they bring forth. They distribute power to the individuals, empowering them to be their best, give their best, and be given the best. They encourage positive reinforcement to get more of what the collective needs to flourish. These leaders see their role as bringing out the best in others, as responsible for people harnessing collective expertise, wisdom, and creativity.

One thought on “Leadership in Participatory Culture

  • Excellent summary of values! Mind if we share this on the AMOwiki?

    Reminds me of SmartMobs, Howard Rheingold and his analysis of participatory cultures and how they emerge around magnetic leaders with good (or sometimes hairbrained) ideas.

    My question now is how can a leader help things stick for their community? Effective communication tools?

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