Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Distributed Leadership in the Obama Campaign

Distributed Leadership in the Obama Campaign

The video above is an excellent, if long, discussion on the development of distributed leadership in the Obama election campaign. The speaker, Marshall Ganz, was a New Lefter, involved in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Campaign, the United Farm Workers, and had some sort of training role for Camp Obama. The video is worth a look if you have time, but here are the salient points I pulled from it.

What does leadership mean in times of opportunity?
Taking responsibility to enable others to achieve shared purpose in the face of uncertainty.

Stephen Jay Gould mentions two conceptions of time:
- Time as cycle (management, routine)
- Time as arrow (leadership, change)
Both of these are necessary. Time as arrow fits a campaign-organisation suitably, but it also needs to include management and routine. However, the fact of change, and unexpected issues, means that the organisation must be able to adapt, this requires leadership, not management.

Obama campaign had three advantages:
- Message of hope - involved people in shared narrative
- Stategic - set specific goals (local caucases) and built local capacity to win these
- Finance - built an expensive base of small contributors

Moving from Disorganisation to Organisation requires leadership

Disorganisation -> Leadership -> Organisation
Passive -> Motivation -> Participating
Divided -> Relationship -> Community
Chaotic -> Structuring -> Collaboration
Reactive -> Strategy -> Initiative
Inactive -> Action -> Outcomes

Motivation is crucial, because it explores the individual's emotional involvement, their affective mapping of the world. Decisions are ultimately made on the basis of emotional involvement.

Camp Obama identified each of these issues
Motivation: People told their stories of why they were there, what their values were
Relationship-Building: People would have one-on-one meetings, bring discussion back to wider group - develop shared interests
Structuring: Develop interdependent leadership teams
- Decide on norms on which decisions and actions are made
- What are the tasks? who can do what?
Strategising: Give people the tools to identify goals and identify necessary tasks.
Action: Give training in very specific tools

Different Models of Organisation

That's my MSPaint rendition of his diagram, which is not dissimilar to a model I previously drew up. The lateral arrows indicate that links are always being established and drawn between the various groups.

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