I was listening to CBC Radio this morning as the show host was interviewing a management consultant who used the term “open-source leadership.”
By that, he was describing a style of leadership in organizations or groups that has changed from the old command-and-control method of one leader doing the thinking and making all the management decisions to a newer more open model where individuals share the leadership and management of the group. He used the “Occupy” movement of participatory democracy that is currently being experimented with by protestors in cities around the world.
I was struck by how similar that is to the model we use in Toastmasters although we have a more mature and stable process than the protest groups.
For example, in our club which is run under a charter granted to us by Toastmasters International, our executive team is voted in annually and there are limits to how long any single officer can serve.
Each week, a new chair and a new slate of officers run the meeting.
Participation and leadership on committees that serve the club are always in flux as is the makeup of volunteers on party committees and educational sessions.
In order for open-source leadership to work, all of the members have to find ways to work together to realize the objectives of the club.
This is one of the reasons the club puts such emphasis on members fulfilling their responsibilities when it comes to finding their own replacements when they are unable to attend a meeting where they have a job. I’ve noticed both older and newer members in the past who had a minor role that were completed by the break quietly leave the meeting and go home. This is very admirable and noteworthy supportive behaviour.
Think what would happen in your home or workplace if you didn’t carry out a task you said you would do. Might not be a pretty site. Same thing at Toastmasters. The club offers an educational process and members who routinely fail to meet their responsibilities should be contacted by their mentor to see how we can support them and if they continue to be no-shows they risk being removed from the schedule.
The second way we support open-source leadership is by participating fully in our business sessions.
This is essential to the democratic running of the club and will provide you with amazing leadership skills you can take with you into your work or service opportunities.
So how do you get started?
Here’s what I suggested to a new member: Anytime you aren’t absolutely certain of what is happening in the business session you may rise without being recognized by the chair and in a loud voice say: “Mr/Madame Chair I rise to a point of parliamentary inquiry.” The chair is obligated to ask you to state your inquiry and which time you can say “I do not understand what is happening right now.” The chair should either explain it to you or even better have the parliamentarian explain what’s happening.
In this way you will learn parliamentary procedure. The chair will learn how to be a better leader and the parliamentarian will learn to be ready to explain what is happening on a moment’s notice. Finally I bet at least a handful of your fellow members were just as lost as you were but didn’t have the courage to speak up in that moment. They will learn that speaking up in this club is not only encouraged but appreciated.