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Anarchism, Christianity, and the Prophetic Imagination 9

Written by Jason Barr : November 29, 2007

Another implication of having decentralized authority structures has to do with the ways anarchists generally tend to view leadership. What’s that, you say? Anarchists and leaders? Is that not a contradiction? No, it is not, though that is another common misconception about anarchism.

What anarchists desire is to have no institutionalized leadership structures. Rather than having a CEO for twenty years, or a president for four years or a principal for sixteen years, leaders would arise depending on the needs of a particular situation facing the group. That is to say, decentralized power structures lead to dynamic leadership structures that change as the needs of the group change. This is quite different from the commonly-understood leadership model where one person with a vision is on top and implements policies by his initiative and action by delegating. Delegation may be part of what a leader in a dynamic, decentralized structure does, but it is not as one who has power over the others involved - rather each person should use their skills to serve the needs of the group in the situation.

One example of this type of leadership is the Spies for Peace, were a group of people in Britain who uncovered the governments’ plans to ensure the survival of the ruling elite in case of nuclear war. The group had no official leadership. Rather a leader would arise based on their skills and the task at hand; that person would cease to be the “leader” when a new task came about and a new skill was needed to take care of it. Sometimes you could have multiple leaders if more than one thing was needed in a particular instance. In that way leaders appeared and disappeared at any given time. This is different than simply designating someone to be a leader and letting them lead for extended periods of time, without consideration for changing situations. Accountability is to the group itself, rather than to a board or council within the group, and again the people who are affected by the decisions should be the ones who ultimately make them and choose the course of action.

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