The Death of the Alpha Leader

We now live in an automagical world.  A world that is composed of not one future, but multiple futures. A world of self-chosen communities or tribes that are nodes in large, complex networks of such groups. A world in which hierarchal pyramids of control are crumbling and the Taylorism world of precise affluence has become a Web 2.0 world of mystical influence and social networks.

Viral loops, not manifestos, provide the opportunity for unparalleled influence. This is a world in which documents handed down by well-meaning alpha males result in a stifled yawn. However, this same world moves to the edge of their seat upon realizing that the responsibility to change the world need not be their legacy or burden. On the contrary, the creation of culture is the calling from which history speaks.

For example, Compassion International recently asked me to help form a group of influential bloggers for a historic trip to Uganda. A trip in which we visited slums, HIV/Aids hospitals and projects each morning. We then blogged, created video, and recounted stories raw with reality and emotion each afternoon. Thousands of people around the world followed our eight day journey real-time and over 400 children were sponsored and rescued from poverty. The viral loop that was created spawned hundreds of additional posts and offered the opportunity for thousands of additional people to experience the trip in an automagical way.

This “automagic” tested the corporate structure of Compassion. The trip was completely out of their control. The blog posts were not softened or censored and the videos and art spawned were not pre-approved by the marketing department. The servant leaders of this large organization flexed and collaborated to create culture.

Servant leaders have the ability to provide a new type of leadership. A collaborative mentoring and releasing of people with varied and mystical gifts in order to create culture. Alpha leaders value control, servant leaders value collaboration. Alpha leaders value individualism, servant leaders value community. Alpha leaders value affluence, servant leaders value influence.

Today, it is through viral loops that movements really snowball. In their latest issue, Fast Company says, “A destination such as Facebook grows via invitations, with each “friend” reaching out to her own set of contacts, which in turn do the same. More than half of the undergraduate population at Harvard joined within a month of Facebook’s 2004 launch; four years later, it has 67 million active users. And at its current 3% weekly expansion rate, it will have 200 million users by the end of the year, equal to the population of the fifth-largest nation on earth.”

This is not yesterday. It is today. Millions of cultural creatives offer a more hopeful future(s) and are converging for profound change. This convergence is a quiet revolution without manifestos or alpha leaders. This story is one that begs ten thousand tellers and then ten times more to be inspired by it.

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This is a repost of an essay I wrote May 9, 2008 as a guest blogger for Hugh Hewitt

18 Responses to “The Death of the Alpha Leader”

  1. I sincerely cringe every time I come across an "Alpha Leader". Not out of submission, but sympathy I suppose. This is a great article Randy and I appreciate you taking the time to post these thoughts. Love the line "This convergence is a quiet revolution without manifestos or alpha leaders"…exciting times.

    • @Josh Perrington, Wow!! What a powerful statement!! “I cringe when I encounter an alpha leader, not out of submission but out of sympathy.” I sincerely hope I get to that place one day!! Thanks, Josh!

  2. I think the whole concept of leadership is being shaken. In the "olden" days, the leaders were the only ones with voices that were heard and they used that circumstance to control. Now, with our interconnectedness, everyone's voice can be heard, and the voices that will grow to be the loudest will do so because of content, not position. This puts a responsibility on us who speak to make sure what we're saying sets people free and does not hold them to ourselves. This is a great time to be alive–we have the potential to change our world with the absolute love of God. I pray that we will turn that potential energy into kinetic energy and that everyone will hear us loud and clear!

  3. Thanks for good article. Hope to see more soon.

  4. Philip Sawyer March 25, 2010 at 21:09

    Only quibble I have is I think you find that "alpha leaders" value individuality in themselves, but not in others. In others they only value conformity and submission to their agenda…. Anyone else's ideas are only interesting if they've already come up with them themselves.

  5. Very well said. The cost to see this happen, however is not low. In the church world bubble of ministry that i have lived in this does not play well. It should, however. And, in time either will or the loss of our influence even with our own people of faith will be tragic and devastating.
    Rich Kirkpatrick´s last blog post ..Worship Recap &amp Setlist- May 8- 2011

  6. I work in marketing and PR and over the past few years I’ve noticed people are so much more wary, so much more resistant to the calculated, careful, litmus-tested, focus-grouped information that comes from big corporates and governments. But the wonderful thing about this is that it permissions communicators to get raw, to get honest and to do away with pretense to a degree. Ironically, that’s what people are responding to – at least over here in Australia. But after reading about this courageous effort by Compassion, I suspect that the appetite for the real, salty good stuff is growing everywhere. Great post, Randy.

  7. Great post!!

  8. Excellent – love it, Randy!
    Jeff Goins´s last blog post ..What to Do if Your Blog Ever Gets Hacked

  9. Philip Sawyer May 23, 2011 at 17:52

    Randy, you’re right. I was just wanting to nuance your description. Having spent much time studying Asian cultures, working in Asia, and also in ministry, I’m not one to just jump on the “community” bandwagon without also placing an equal value on human uniqueness and individuality. I’ve met alpha males, typically in ministry, who give great lip service to community values, but what they mean is they’re the head of the group and determine how others get valued… i.e., “We WILL have community….” As you say, the servant leader doesn’t just value community, but knows how to bring out the best in others, and put it to use — they value genuine diversity and know how to manage it, while also knowing when to make the decision and move on.

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