For me Peer Leadership is the leadership of the future.
For the moment I’m not going to talk about the individual characteristics and skills leaders need to be successful in a diverse society. But the way a leader and their community connect and in the end ‘create’ one another.
It is likely that leaders in the past were as much the product of their own skills as they were of their community. In a race-based society leaders were exemplary of either how their community saw themselves or wanted to see themselves.
Leaders also arose as part of the process of a great cause. And had to develop the means of expression, and the charisma of having ‘lived’ the cause in order to succeed.
The challenge with both of these experiences of leadership is that life in our diverse communities is not so simple anymore. And while race-based leadership and cause-based leadership are still around, the entire picture of our communities is so much more complex than either race or cause-based leadership can address.
A leader now finds him or herself among equals- or if this idea of equality seems like too much of a stretch given the last vestiges of patriarchy and the apparent high status of wealth and celebrity- let’s say the present leader finds him or herself among peers.
We are all peers to one another. Thanks to technology and the media we can find out just about anything we need to know about one another. Thanks to the constant flow of information we are all in communities- or indeed are community makers. We belong to all kinds of groups- based on friendship, beliefs, hobbies, activities, books, music, common experiences to name just a few – and add internet use and the opportunities to find peers and community building is endless.
While fame and wealth may still stratify our communities, most of us believe in some form of equity and justice in human affairs even if we don’t always experience them. Most of us can fend for ourselves- more or less- in terms of meeting our needs in everything from finding places to live to feeling part of significant friendships and associations. And for perhaps the first time in history the plight of those who cannot fend for themselves for whatever reasons is on the agenda of most communities. So the role and expectation of governance and politics in communities is changing in terms of defining our sense of place or the degree to which they determine our vision of how we organize and run ourselves.
We are all peers in this new landscape. And in this landscape where one race cannot actually dominate, nor one cause- even if absolutely necessary like the sustaining of our global environmental commons of atmosphere, oceans, and icecaps- completely motivate, we must all develop the mindset of a Peer Leader.
This mindset will begin with greater attention to one’s personal growth and development combined with more engagement into community process and social development. As we take more responsibility for our personal growth, as well as our surroundings, our practice of community will change.