Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2014 United States, Proceedings of the 58th Meeting of ISSS, Washington DC, USA, July 2014

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Leadership issues in medium scale acephalous groups

Victor Ronald David MacGill

Abstract


Top-down, dominance based organisations are prevalent in today’s world. While they may be efficient, the division of people into leaders and followers, or managers and workers, contains an inherent conflict where distrust and antagonism often lead to destructive and even violent organisational dynamics.

As a response to the iniquities inherent in top-down dominance hierarchies some groups form acephalous organisations, where there is no structured leadership. The process of leadership is still necessary, but it manifests in very different ways.

In order to investigate leadership in acephalous groups, we first explore leadership patterns in the animal kingdom with such organisational structures as dominance hierarchies and swarm . We note the links between the interplay of the structurally determined biological make up of the animal with its environment, and the social structure adopted. This forms the foundation for exploring human organisational possibilities. Next, we examine leadership theories, models and concepts that shift the focus from seeing the leader as an individual to viewing leadership as a process resulting from a complex of recursive interactions between leaders and followers in a given environment.

Moving beyond the idea of seeing leadership as an interactional process between leader and follower, in acephalous groups, the very distinction between leader and follower is dissolved.  Convergence is a medium scale acephalous group in Canterbury New Zealand formed by a loose network of 300-500 alternative life-stylers and people seeking a break from their usual mainstream life, who come together for a gathering for five days each year. Preliminary research results from interviews and a survey at the most recent Convergence gathering yielded some interesting dynamics within the group’s operation and understandings of how it copes with some of the practical challenges of operating acephalously. This research could encourage other organisations to consider an acephalous structure or incorporate some acephalous principles into their operation.


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