July 31, 2020

What of leadership?

One of the things I learned from New Games in the late 70’s was an alternative approach to leadership. I had never experienced anything like it. The concept of shared leadership, as well as leadership that was able to give up control, was key. Two or three New Games trainers would lead a weekend workshop for about 60 or so participants. We would first play with them, then teach the players the games and philosophy, then have the players practice teaching the games; a very inclusive approach. The weekend would culminate in a mini New Games Festival in a local park. There, the workshop players became the leaders, teaching the games and playing the play at the festival, while the trainers became the observers and players, a role reversal. They even learned how to take turns sharing the leadership role with people who came to play. To me, young and fairly naive, this seemed revolutionary.

I guess it was. I can’t say it always worked perfectly, but the concept of shared leadership became ingrained in me. I think it made me uncomfortable with much of the patriarchal leadership in medicine. Maybe that is one reason that I had trouble with it repeatedly. This is also why I love Old Time Music, rather than Bluegrass, because of that sharing, cooperation and inclusiveness. As I have grown and matured, I have kept this concept of leadership in mind and have worked on healing my damage from moral injury and old styles of leadership. Over the years, I have studied and learned about transformative leadership. It has been a long journey.

This is a big reason I was intrigued with this study in fish that shows that subordinate, less dominating males were better leaders than the dominant, more aggressive males. Interesting, and not surprising at all to me. Dominating leaves little room for creativity, growth, and problem solving. Bullying, which often occurs with domination, is harmful. Nurturing is a better way. It is a more feminine way, if you will. Individuals are able to develop their own unique skills. They also respond with more trust.

My friend, Kelly Wendorf, an amazing horsewoman, has helped me see the wisdom of leadership differences more clearly. In a herd of horses, the stallion is not the natural day to day leader. It is the mare who leads in a feminine, collaborative fashion. The stallion only leads in times of great danger. When we slow down to think about it, these effects of different styles of leaders should not actually surprise us. They use the skills and strengths of the individual to help the whole.

We see those differences played out every day in the news. We see it in examples of some states and countries doing better with COVID-19 pandemic because they had leaders who were more collaborative and who built trust. Most of us have already heard about the Prime Minister of New Zealand and how the virus has been suppressed there. She was able to build trust so that the nation followed her advice. It worked. The governor of Rhode Island has also been more successful than surrounding states. Compare Arizona with its neighbor New Mexico . Germany has been more successful than many European countries.

What these places all have in common are women leaders. What these particular leaders have in common is the ability to build trust, ability to listen to others so they can learn and make good choices. They dispense with bullying and grandstanding. All traits I learned in New Games and have aspired to ever since. Those leaders are looking out for the good of the whole, the good of the herd, not just the good of the individual. I want to clarify that men can do this too. This is not just women, but it is leadership with a different focus than a patriarchal style. Collaboration, not dominance, is more effective. We will all be better off if we choose our leaders wisely. Don’t forget to vote.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and think about leading. Read more about leadership from Kellys blog at https://equusinspired.com

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.