Since I have been conducting research on local, grassroots disability organizations in the midst of a growing international disability movement, I often find myself thinking about George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1938). For those who haven’t read it, Orwell put his finger on a pretty fundamental issue: movement leaders often diagnose the needs of their members or intended beneficiaries very differently than those members/beneficiaries diagnose their needs themselves. This seems especially true in movements that emphasize a “change in consciousness” as a first step. Continue reading
Tag Archives: leadership
LEADING TEAMS (or, How Social Movement Leaders Are Like Flight Attendants, Semiconductor Manufacturers, and Second Violinists)
It is increasingly common for social movement scholars to bemoan the lack of theory and research on leadership in social movements. There’s a good reason for this: there’s not enough out there. We know a bit about who becomes a movement leader. We know a bit about how they become leaders. We know a bit about what the leadership experience does to leaders over time. And we know a bit about what leaders (sometimes) (probably) do. There’s clearly a lot of ground left to cover.
One way to advance our understanding is to shift from thinking about leadership as something individuals do to thinking about leadership as the outputs from leadership teams (recent works by Marshall Ganz, Francesca Polletta, and others have started pushing us in such directions). Making this conceptual shift refocuses our attention away from the particulars of what certain leaders have done and toward the organizational and interactional contexts within which they operated. The most brilliant tactical innovation or issue frame is highly context dependent. But the settings from which brilliant ideas spring forth may not be. In effect, to understand movement leadership, we might be better off asking why some leadership teams work better than others. Continue reading →