“Lead, follow, or get out of the way” is an oft-quoted phrase used by people who want others to get moving—NOW!
At the Sustainability Leadership Institute (SLI), we define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for making good things happen WITH others—regardless of positional power, background, or social standing. A sustainability leader is:
A sustainability leader quickly learns how to “lead, follow, AND get out of the way.”
Think of a flock of migrating birds flying in a V formation. At any given moment, we see one bird in the lead with multiple followers in specific positions, all forming a V shape together. But watch for even a minute or two and the V reorganizes itself, with some birds moving forward and others dropping back. Over a great distance, the arrangement is ever-changing, with birds taking turns at leading, following, and even getting out of the way—yet the V is maintained.
The birds’ interactions—signaling when and where to shift positions—is an instinctive element, imbedded in their DNA. They are perpetuating their existence through these self-organizing interactions that benefit the individual birds and the flock as a whole. The V-shape helps the flock fly more effectively, creating aerodynamic advantage and improving energy efficiency. The birds instinctively rotate positions to ensure the heavy lifting is distributed evenly among them, thus enabling the flock to fly farther and faster toward life-sustaining feeding grounds and warmer climes.
Sustainability leaders recognize the holistic interrelationship between human/societal well-being, economic well-being, and a thriving natural environment as illustrated in the diagram below. They initiate interactions with others to move toward resolving complex, integrated issues within these domains.
Sustainability leaders also tend to recognize the interdependence of all life forms—humans, plants, non-human animals, etc.—and inanimate resources in what physicist, systems theorist and deep ecologist Fritjof Capra calls the “complex web of life.”
It’s little wonder, then, that sustainability leaders have the mindset and natural propensity for understanding and practicing Generative Communication (GC) as they seek to co-create a better, more sustainable world with others.
Sustainability leaders who communicate generatively welcome self-organizing spontaneity of creative innovation even in the messy conversations of disagreement.
They learn to lead, follow, AND get out of the way, deferring to the embedded wisdom within the groups with whom they are associated.
Thanks, Marilyn. I truly believe that generative communication will help us move together toward a more sustainable future.