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Alaina Love
Leadership author

Alaina Love

Alaina Love is co-author, with Marc Cugnon, of The Purpose Linked Organization and co-founder of Purpose Linked Consulting.

Tea Party a call for leadership, not the result of it

Q: Has the recent success of the Tea Party come because of, or in spite of, the movement's lack of a formal leadership structure? Along with Wikipedia, open-source software and organizations like moveon.org, is this another example of the power of distributed leadership?

Throughout my career, the best leaders that I've encountered operated with four basic tenets:

1. Have a clear vision for where you are headed and what success looks like when you get there.

2. Understand why you will be successful, as well as how you will achieve results.

3. Engage others in your vision for the future by helping them see how they can be
co-creators of it, utilizing their unique skills, talents and passions to make a positive difference.

4. Remain focused on the higher good rather than self-serving interests, so that sustained change is achievable and beneficial to all.

Given these leadership tenets, qualifying the recent results with Tea Party activists as "success" is at this point an overstatement. This is a group devoid of strong leadership, rather than an example of distributed leadership. Many of the individuals who satellite around this movement are eagerly providing evening-news sound bites that are focused on playing to the anxieties and fears resulting from an economy in turmoil, without any realistic platform for improving the lives of Americans. There is no true dream articulated, no real goals defined, no vision for a future that embraces everyone while balancing the demands on our nation's economy with the needs of her citizens. In short, what we have with the Tea Party thus far is a distraction from the serious work that needs to be accomplished with our government. It's more noise than it is an evolution.

Contrast today's Tea Party movement with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. What that movement possessed that the Tea Party lacks is a true visionary leader like Dr. King, a set of positive goals to strive toward, and a dream for a better future that could engage and energize a nation. While there is certainly more work to be done to assure the civil rights of all Americans, there can be no argument that the leadership that began at the level of Dr. King and migrated out to all levels of the Civil Rights movement contributed to a sustained improvement in the lives of millions. Built on a platform of non-violence and inclusiveness, it was an example of the power of both leadership at the top and distributed authority for others to take positive action.

What the Tea Party movement best represents is a cry from the American public for our elected officials to show true leadership in Washington and at the state level. It's a movement born of a leadership void, itself in search of a compelling voice. Now that the gauntlet has been thrown, the question remains: which party will be that voice?

By Alaina Love

 |  September 22, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Followership , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The tea party, Wikipedia and al-Qaeda: shared leadership lessons? | Next: The pros and cons of decentralized leadership

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Washington seems to have forgotten the basics of leadership. You need what is listed above to actually get people to want to follow you! I'm not sure distributed leadership is the answer. I'd settle for good old fashioned leadership with individuals on both sides of the aisle caring about the American people above their own interests. That would be a good start and would make Tea Party-like movements mute!

Posted by: LoriD1 | September 22, 2010 6:11 PM
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