Dear Mr. Fisk, have you heard of horizontal leadership?

Beirut tonight

“The new revolutions of the Middle East are not the same, but they all share this one fatal flaw: They have no leadership, no recognisable faces of integrity. And – the greatest tragedy of all – they don’t seem to be interested in finding any” said Robert Fisk 3 days ago.

As if the millions of people protesting in several countries in Western Asia and North Africa – including in Lebanon in the last 2 weeks -, are “ignorant masses”, unable to produce new leadership or to come up with alternative leadership practices and models, or should not choose to be leaderless God forbid. As if those “masses” have only three choices: to be dull, a*-kissers, or hopelessly insecure.

Beirut tonight

Then again, I understand why Fisk and others would use an essentialist definition of leadership, as vertical leadership has definitely been the “norm” for quite some time. This thinking assumes that any movement needs hierarchy to succeed (top-down approach) – but guess what? There is a new paradigm in town – well not that new but let’s say that it’s becoming more popular in Lebanon and elsewhere – and it’s defined as “horizontal leadership”.

Beirut tonight

Simply put, it’s about human synergy, cooperation, taking ownership of milestones, innovation (which is not reserved for an elite), teamwork, sums of experiences and accumulated knowledge/wisdom, boundary-crossing, impact-making, game-changing, disruption, unity in diversity; and it’s definitely not about “the norm”. There is no “official boss”, nor a “patriarch”, “zaim”, or a “father figure”.

Horizontal leadership is not about getting people to follow; it’s about getting things done “less by lining up the troops, and more by generating movement around common goals”.

In other words, horizontal leadership is about a matrix of people who don’t want nor need to be ordered to act how “they should”, and whose collective actions progressively implement “a vision”.

“In today’s world, we each have to behave as leaders, or we simply don’t succeed. This is not New Age pablum-talk; it is a meaningful statement. (…) The concept of leadership development needs democratizing. The future of leadership is horizontal, not vertical; and the future of horizontal leadership is learning the ways of trust. That means teaching trusting, and being trusted. And it means an approach to teaching leadership that is far more broadly-based than it has been” (Trusted Advisor).

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