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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Leadership: Alpha vs Omega

Anyone who's been following Canada's 42nd general election has been exposed to some pretty dispiriting stuff from people presenting themselves as the best leaders for our communities and our country.  

We've seen corruption, brutal personal attacks, refusals to accept responsibility, the throwing under the bus of loyalists and the intentional marginalization of minority groups for partisan gain.  

A common theme among all this mess - only one can keep the country safe, on track, strong, etc. The future of the country hangs on the shoulders of only one individual.

Which, plainly, isn't true. If anything, the increased consolidation of power in the person of the Prime Minister and their team of privy operatives has led to the hollowing out of Canada's democracy and increasingly short-sighted policy and action. 

This all got me thinking about leadership - about the kind that's effective in building strong societies and the kind that ‎is really about control.  

Alpha Leaders - the earliest form of leadership, more accurately defined as dominance. The alpha male in a grouping of apes, the chief in a tribal community or the king in a feudal society all get the best of everything and the subservience of their people, provided they keep the community safe and solve internal justice issues. 

The same theory that drives Free Market Capitalism drives Alpha Leadership - the strongest will best all competitors to end up on top, meaning whoever ends up on top is the strongest boss.  

Equally as important to note - in an Alpha-dominated society, the only way to gain the riches and power that comes from being The Boss is to challenge and replace that boss. The corollary of this is that to stay on top, the Alpha Boss has to continuously be proving their dominance and necessity and quickly knock down any and all challengers to their position. 

This means swatting down anyone who challenges their ‎authority or ideas - which also means shooting down any ideas that don't originate with them. To do otherwise is to allow the impression that survival and success isn't entirely dependent on them, which is another form of challenge. 

Feudal societies aren't known for being particularly innovative for good reason.  

This campaign has been dominated by Alpha-style leadership - the partisan pugulism of the leaders, the tight scripting of the ‎candidates, the attacks, the narrow policy focus, the emphasis on threats, etc.  

That's one type of leadership, and as mentioned, not a particularly effective one. Where it has appeal is that it ideally provides a certain level of social security, while also minimizing the active participation of the people. 

If you believe people are sheeple, or simply don't care to be part of community-building, this is the leadership style you want. 

On the other hand, if you believe in the core principles of democracy, you may believe that collective decisions or majority-supported decisions are better. You don't get this without community participation, however - so the question becomes "how do we turn 'sheeple' into societal sheppherds?" 

This is where Omega-style leadership comes in.  

Omega is the opposite of Alpha - instead if doing everything to  get to the top, Omega leaders always ensure the people come first.   Their job isn't to cower or control any more than it is to single-handedly solve every problem or stop every foe.  

Omega leaders are visionaries, inspiration-providers and cheer-leaders who trust and empower the people to be the agents of change in society. They encourage engagement, innovation, collaboration and emphasize societal ownership.  

When the Omega Leader's work is done, the people say "amazing! Look what we ourselves accomplished!"

Under the guidance of an Omega Leader, the people see themselves as powerful and carry the same spirit of empowerment to others. In this way, the whole of society is sustained, engaged and active in community-building. When threats come, people are willing to step up and even make sacrifices, because they feel both powerful and responsible. 

Omega-led societies are agile, solution-based, innovative and internally supportive.  

Of course, Omega Leaders place the well-being of the people above all else - even their own well-being. The theory is that the people around the Omega will be inspired to help them be their best for the return their leadership provides for all. 

There aren't many Omega Leaders out there  ‎these days; we're in this odd place where a growing number of organizations and communities are seeking that kind of leadership but expect it to come in the self-promoting, hustle-based packages typical of Alpha Leadership.  

The implications in this are clear - we aren't really ready for Omega leadership, or at least don't feel that we are. We favour giving power to bosses rather than promoting Omegas who serve as conduits for power, leaving a high level of societal responsibility with us, the people. 

When we're ready, though, there's no shortage of Omegas out there making a difference right now, and having fun doing so.  

And when we all start moving in their direction, you just know good things are going to happen.

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