What leadership of the commons can teach us about leadership and governance in general

 I had the pleasure of interviewing Randal Joy Thompson the other day for the International Humanistic Management Association. She was talking about Leadership on the Commons: Lessons for Government, Corporations, and NGOs.

You can view the video here: https://www.ignited.global/ihma/blog/leadership-commons-lessons-government-corporations-and-ngos  The link includes her slides and other resources mentioned during the presentation.

I really enjoyed her presentation.  One of the main questions we got and that I really liked her answer for had to do with whether or not leadership of the commons equated to some form of socialism.  She said no. Exactly the opposite actually. Leadership of the commons is actually - self leadership.  Socialism/Communism is government control of the commons and the means of production. In contrast, commons leadership is actually, us taking it upon ourselves to come together and decide together how to manage things. It's democracy, at the local level. This sort of leadership is about freedom for the group. It reminded me of some of the statements made in the Federalist Papers about how people in the USA practice democracy at all levels.

Commons Leadership requires a specific set of skills or rather a change in the way we think about how we make decisions and the ethical framework we use to make decisions.

It often arises organically and locally in response to a problem. It happens when people come together to solve a collective problem. If you watch the video, you will hear me talk about a near miss of an ecological disaster in my community. The response to this was collaborative. The problem was 60 years in the making. No one currently caused the problem. But we collectively had to figure out how to fix it. And it is getting fixed, finally.

Anyway, here are my notes on what is required to lead on the commons:

  • Think of things as larger – whole – complex systems. 
  • Proleptic – anticipate and open to positive future.
  • Need for homeostasis – creating stability
  • Shift away from egocentric to ecocentric of all the interconnected elements. 
  • Leading Proleptically - Lead with a glimpse of the future – what is that – how do we create it?  How are we influencing systems.
  • Based on Ubuntu – relationships embedded in an interconnected system. 
  • Mutual benefits to everyone and all subsystems and society and earth.
  • Power to rather than power over. It’s about empowering. 
  • Concept is more expansive than commonly understood.  Diverse resources to strengthen capacity

Implementing this

Practical 1: Create an ethical agreement about interactions to govern the community. Groups should discuss: What are our ethical principles? It is critical for the community to decide what the values are and what are the ethical principles through which they want to interact.
Practical 2: What matters – in an ecological way – whole system approach. See my above notes.

Individual responsibility

Finally, I asked her what the 3 things are she would want us to change as we think about ourselves as leaders.

1) Examine own perspective first
2) Do you see the interconnections between your organization and others organizations and do you include that in your deliberations?
3) Are you willing to really sit down and look at your ethical values?

I thought this was an excellent list. I talk to people all the time who want to create unity with others and end divisions. But what they really want is to change other people. They don't want to change themselves. They just want everyone to agree with them. That isn't actually how leadership works.  Real leaders make space for disagreements and look for the foundational ethical principles that bind us together so that we CAN work towards a common goal together despite our differences. 

So, what are you doing, to examine your own perspective? 

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