Westminster Professor Examines the Myth of Leadership
Jeffrey Nielsen sees peer-based leadership emerging in modern political movements
SALT LAKE CITY – Someone has to be in charge…right? Wrong, says Jeffrey Nielsen, an adjunct philosophy professor at Westminster College. Nielsen has been questioning the effectiveness of traditional leadership roles for years.
While traveling the world as a consultant to government agencies, large corporations, and small businesses, Nielsen witnessed the failure of organizations to reach their full potential because the will of a leader overshadowed the knowledge of followers. When Nielsen first published his book, The Myth of Leadership: Creating Leaderless Organizations in 2004, there were few examples of leaderless organizations. The Myth of Leadership recently came out in paperback and Nielsen now sees what he calls peer-based leadership emerging in modern political movements.
“We can look at the Arab Spring in the Middle East, the Occupy Wall Street movement spreading across America, even the Tea Party is an example of this new consciousness,” said Nielsen. “It seems the world has caught up to this issue, though few understand it.”
In The Myth of Leadership, Nielsen asks “why have leaders?” He explores how traditional leadership creates relationships of unequal power, one leader with many followers, which breeds corruption and abuse of power. Nielsen then examines the mechanics of a peer-based alternative that includes the knowledge and voices of the many, rather than an elite few. After comparing the two models, Nielsen lays out a strategy for transforming the ‘from the top down’ organization into a leaderless one made up of peer councils and rotational leaders. Whether your organization is your family, work, school, or church, Nielsen argues this radical approach leads to innovation and success.
When asked if strong leadership is need today Nielsen says, “We need wise people. We need visionary people. We need practical people. We need to harvest the intelligence and strength of every member of our community.”
Media interested in interviews with Jeffrey Nielsen can contact Krista DeAngelis and Arikka Von at (801) 832-2682.
Westminster is a nationally recognized, comprehensive liberal arts college. With a broad array of graduate and undergraduate programs, Westminster is distinguished by its unique environment for learning. Westminster prepares students for success through active and engaged learning, real world experiences and its vibrant campus community. Westminster’s unique location, adjacent to the Rocky Mountains and to the dynamic city of Salt Lake, further enriches the college experience. For more information, visit www.westminstercollege.edu or follow WestminsterSLC on Twitter.