I like to go my own way. I started getting myself to school and packing my own lunch at 8 years old. I know how I like things, and I’m happy to do them without oversight. I don’t care for others telling me what to do, which is probably why I’ve worked for myself the past eight years and why I cringe when someone assumes a colleague is my supervisor. It’s also why my grandfather used to call me “Boss Lady.”
Even in my bootcamp class, where I pay someone to tell me what to do, my first response to instructions is: You’re not the boss of me! If I do these pushups, it’s because I choose to, not because you told me.
I am, by my nature, just a bit resistant to authority and slightly allergic to doing something because someone else told me to do it.
As a manager, this was not an awesome trait. But as a host/facilitator, it’s actually serves me really well.
Working in participatory leadership, creating the conditions for people to figure out their own solutions and work together to implement them, is a great fit for me because it actually has me supporting people to be their own bosses. It allows me to trust people like I want to be trusted. When I run processes, I can ask folks questions and trust them to respond in ways that are helpful to themselves and each other and that will move them forward in their work.
This trust doesn’t come from a Pollyanna place. It comes from pragmatism. I have consistently found that people are smart and creative, and, when together, they develop solutions that they couldn’t on their own. And they are also more likely to implement those solutions that they develop themselves.
That’s not to say practicing participatory leadership means that folks have complete control over their options or can do whatever they want, but good participatory processes means we are really specific about what folks can impact and allow them to do so.
The ideas are better, and the implementation is more effective. Sounds about right. We all want to be part of the changes that are impacting us and participatory processes help us do that. That’s why leadership through inviting engagement and participation is being used so many places right now in the world. We know that if you need to do good work together, there are processes that will allow folks to come together around issues they care about and take action.
Like everyone else, I want to see my work having impact. Inviting participation and working together for solutions makes sense to me in many, many situations. And it allows me to express my own commitment to self-determination because, you know, you’re not the boss of me.
(Look, I get that it’s deeply paradoxical that this post where I reject people telling me what to do is right up against one talking about the “gift of parameters”. What can I say? I am a complicated, multi-being. I’m not always going to make sense. Join me.)
This blog is a place where I share what I'm doing out in the world, reflect on what I'm learning, and also capture some of my random thoughts. I'd love these blogs to start new conversations. Please join me in the comments or send me an email about what these posts bring up