who’s the leader of the pack?
By   |  Culture 

After a fairly peculiar and eventful week, I found myself discussing, with one of my coworkers, leadership, judgment, “the right thing to do”, and how to overcome and learn from the usual setbacks of agency work; all in all, the typical thoughts, at the end of the day, of tiredness and (de)motivation.

Usually we have a quite similar train of thought and, almost every time, we share the same ideas. However, more often than not, we disagree on how to address the subject, or on which route to take to get us to where we want to. Notwithstanding, and after a good half an hour spent questioning the ‘whys and hows’, the debate ends up focusing on his specific leadership style and on the various others we’ve come across.

And if the subject has always interested me, today it deserves my special attention and care for I too have a team to lead and only God – and many of you – knows what a challenge that is.

In the end, and to sum up, the question and the conclusion are quite simple: are people, in an unrestricted environment, able of act according to their good judgment without ever losing their sense of responsibility, freedom(s) and justice? He believes so. I have my reservations.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of a leadership style that empowers each of the team’s members, and allows them to act according to their consciousness and convictions (death to micromanagement!). So much so, that once, I defended tooth and nail the “please, just don’t make me tell you what to do” approach. Today, I can’t look at that statement without acknowledging in it some immaturity.

Curiously, this morning, I picked up a book that was lying on the shelf, gathering dust for half a year, and, without knowing it, it would make me question further about this particular matter right from the very first chapter.

The approach to justice that begins with freedom is a capacious school. In fact, some of the most hard-fought political arguments of our time take place between two rival camps with it – the laissez-faire camp and the fairness camp. Leading the laissez-faire camp are free-market libertarians who believe that justice consists in respecting and upholding the voluntary choices made by consenting adults. The fairness cam contains theorists of a more egalitarian bent. They argue that unfettered markets are neither just nor free. In their view, justice requires policies that remedy social and economic disadvantages and give everyone a fair chance at success.

Justice (2014), Michael J. Sandel

I realized that to speak of leadership is to speak of freedom. And that it’s impossible to speak of freedom without speaking of justice. Although the previous quotation is mainly concerned with the economy and with prosperity, it still raises some important questions and ties up a few loose ends.

Is the laissez-faire model one that allows, especially when things go wrong, for justice and equity in work relationships based on the premise that we are all sensible adults?

Will I always be able to know when I’m crossing the threshold of what’s acceptable in an office argument?

Will I always be able to understand that I must sacrifice for the greater good?

Will I always be able to [insert here any situation in which you doubted your own behavior/decision]?

The agency, in 2015, has no room for authoritarian/imposing types of leadership, and, if you still work in that kind of environment, it’s quite possible that its days are numbered. That’s just not how millennials work.

But, if the freedom and the autonomy required cannot be mistaken for not having any boundaries at all, one question remains. What is (if there is one) the best model to define those boundaries: the intra-definition or the inter-definition?

Do we still require someone one to guide us, or are we able to set our own boundaries within the limits of the pack?

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