I like groups when they exist to bolster individual development and growth. I don’t like them when membership requires enduring steadily increasing pressure to subvert individual expression.
The expression of individuality is unacceptable to the latter type of group, mostly because it’s sloppy, unpredictable, non-conforming. Instead, various expressions of individuality—disagreement, alternate points of view, creative expression, non-PC rule-breaking—should always be welcomed with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism.
It’s to be expected that such expression will rattle the order that the group more or less exists to maintain.
But a healthy group should have no problem re-orienting. In doing so, it proves that it exists not just to maintain groupish order, but also to regenerate, develop and improve. On the other hand, a group that fails to re-orient, shudders, and even shatters, at the slightest show of individuality is one from which any of us should immediately withdraw membership.
It’s also important to remember that a group cannot take offense. Only an individual can take offense. And offense-taking should be dealt with on those terms: individual to individual, peer to peer. Once the emotional load is dealt with, a functional group can ask: is there something that we can all learn from this? And, is there a way that we can update our structure to reflect that new wisdom?
Featured image is a photo of Synergy by environmental artist Martin Hill. The shot was taken by his collaborator Philippa Jones.
Here are a few more resources on group leadership and followership: