Derek Sivers (who has done some good stuff — see The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures) has a very popular TED Talk called Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. Here’s the video of his three-minute talk, and you can read the transcript here:
Unfortunately, at least through my eyes as a nineteen-year community organizer and nine-year high school teacher, he teaches all the wrong lessons about leadership.
A leader who shares the values of democracy, justice, and diversity (among other things) and is serious about building long-lasting change — change that will not be dependent on him/her — does not begin by coming up with an idea and acting on it.
Instead, that kind of leader begins by leading with his/her ears, asking people what they see that needs to be done, then testing out his/her idea, getting reactions from others so that the idea can be adapted in a minor or major way so that something can be improved and become their idea, too.
Yes, a dancing guy can get people dancing at a concert for a short time, but then those dancers will forget about him in a few hours. An inspirational speaker can get people “jazzed-up” for a short-time after a speech. A teacher can get dressed-up in a costume and put on a performance for a class period or constantly be an entertaining “sage on stage” and maybe get students engaged for a short-time.
But it’s the trust that’s built through relationships, the ownership that’s built through listening and “buy-in,” the supportive environment that those elements build that encourage many people to take risks, and the mutual accountability that’s created as a result — that’s what creates a culture of learning, challenge and change. And I do want leaders — lots and lots of them. I want as many people — students and others — to develop the leadership skills of listening, risk-taking, holding others accountable and being willing to be held accountable. This kind of leader wants to develop other leaders, not just followers.
That what I want in my classroom, and that’s what I think needs to be present in any kind of organization that wants to make serious change that supports the kind of values I believe in.
What do you think?