When I am the designated leader I have found that once a group becomes a community, my nominal job is over. I can sit back and relax and be one among many, for another of the essential characteristics of community is a total decentralization of authority. Remember that it is anti-totalitarian. Its decisions are reached by consensus. Communities have sometimes been referred to as leaderless groups. It is more accurate, however, to say that a community is a group of all leaders. Because it is a safe place, compulsive leaders feel free in community - often for the first time in their lives - to not lead. And the customarily shy and reserved feel free to step forth with their latent gifts of leadership. The result is that a community is an ideal decision-making body. The expression "A camel is a horse created by a committee" does not mean that group decisions are inevitably clumsy and imperfect; it does mean that committees are virtually never communities.
So it was in 1983 when I needed to make some difficult major decisions in my life - so difficult that I knew I was not intelligent enough to make them alone even with expert advice. I asked for help, and twenty-eight women and men came to my aid from around the country. Quite properly, we spent the first 80 percent of our three days together building ourselves into a community. Only in the last few hours did we turn our attention to the decisions that needed to be made. And they were made with the speed and brilliance of lightning.
One of the most beautiful characteristics of community is what I have come to call the "flow of leadership." It is because of this flow that our community in 1983 was able to make its decisions so rapidly and effectively. And because its members felt free to express themselves, it was as if their individual gifts were offered at just the right moment in the decision-making process. So one member stepped forward with part A of the solution. And since the community recognized the wisdom of the gift, everyone deferred to it so that instantly, almost magically, a second member was free to step forward with part B of the solution. And so it flowed around the room.
The flow of leadership in community is routine. It is a phenomenon that has profound implications for anyone who would seek to improve organizational decision-making – in business, government, or elsewhere. But it is not a quick trick or fix. Community must be built first. Traditional hierarchical patterns have to be at least temporarily set aside. Some kind of control must be relinquished. For it is a situation in which it is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
excerpt from: Scott Peck (1987) The Different Drum.
pdf: A Group of All Leaders