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Amy Fraher
Scholar/Military leader

Amy Fraher

Amy L. Fraher is a retired Navy Commander and Aviator,Director of the International Team Training Center at San Diego Miramar College. Her book Thinking Through Crises comes out Spring 2011

The pros and cons of decentralized leadership

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?

Which organizations are better: centralized or decentralized? It depends.

Decentralized leadership approaches work well when an organization needs innovation and creative solutions from knowledgeable people who are familiar with the environment and know their role within the organization. The less hierarchical culture allows a free flow of ideas, yet people's experience and professionalism keep chaos from swamping the task.

Decentralized approaches do not work well with inexperienced people who are unclear about their jobs and in stressful situations where clear direction is needed for concise action. Although it is often disparaged, centralized leadership approaches do have advantages in this situation. When effectively implemented, a centralized leader can quickly get people organized, motivated and on task because communication is predominantly directed from the top down. A centralized leadership strategy is often essential to success in high-stake, fast-paced, time-critical emergencies in unforgiving environments. Yet there are trade-offs.

Some of the negative aspects of centralized leadership are that innovation can be squelched and the loss of the leader--either due to death or incompetence--can often be cataclysmic. In the absence of the strong, clear leadership the organization has come to depend upon, people may not be able to function effectively, do not know who to follow and become conflicted about self-authorization.

Although a decentralized strategy might be working effectively for the Tea Party at this early stage in the group's development, when the environment changes, as it no doubt will, the party will need to be able to adjust its leadership strategy accordingly or risk failure.

By Amy Fraher

 |  September 22, 2010; 12:36 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Followership , Organizational Culture , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Tea Party a call for leadership, not the result of it | Next: The wrong return to our roots


Please report offensive comments below.

If we're going to debate which is better, leaderless groups of led groups, then the situation determines the answer. If we're going to debate whether the TP phenomenon
is one or the other, the outcome turns on facts, which are pretty clear. The published DATA on the Koch tribe, sneering old Dick Armey and the many many other hotshots from the professional lying community, ie, lobbying and public relations, should clear things up.

Frankly, if thirty million dollars and two years' work and professionally-handled bus tours, fully-paid stipends for Sarah and the other 'pro' entertainers and speakers, an entire media conglomerate, Fox...the list goes on...if you factor in all the secretive sneakiness and compare it with the results, if you were one of the Koch brothers you might begin to tear your hair: why have there been so few positive results?
Get real! with years of work and more money than croesus, these people have managed to turn out...approximately one hundred thousand voters who have won one senate race and two primaries.

The reason that the TPeers want it believed that there are noleaders is because, frankly, the leaders(!) are just awful and incompetent and pitiful at what they do.

I'll make a
challenge: Dear Mr. Koch, with a landline phone and a computer, I can turn out more people myself in one-half the time than your entire, extensively-documented network
has done since you began this half-cocked enterprise...you people are so sad, wealthy but so ineffectual.
And yes, the repugs may even win a few this time around, but not many. No intelligent conservative wants to run now: to be IN office and have to face the mess their co-believers created?

It's the total death knell of the Republican party.

Posted by: tigre1 | September 26, 2010 8:34 PM
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