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A Brief Manifesto for Group Leadership and Membership

The light and dark sides of group leadership and membership, how to maintain individuality within a group, and why individual expression is key for group evolution.

Group leadership is fragile, but so is group membership

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 light and dark sides of group leadership and membership, how to maintain individuality within a group, and why individual expression is key for group evolution..

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.