There are two main components of rotating leadership:
- Rotating chair
- Rotating convener
Peace and Power challenges many of the typical practices that prevail for most groups in mainstream experience, and “rotating leadership” is probably at the top of the list! In typical group experience, the leader is assign, or elected, or rises to the role of “leader” because she or he feels comfortable in that role, and everyone else is comfortable, at least initially, letting the person take the lead. Peace and Power turns all of this upside down, and calls on everyone to learn new skills – skills of leadership as well as skills of “followership.”
There is no set way to accomplish the idea of rotating leadership in practice, but the basic principle is that everyone in the group takes a “turn” at whatever leadership roles the group needs. One of the most common is the role of “chair” during meetings. Typically the person who takes on the role of meeting “chair” is called the “convener,” or “facilitator,” or other terms which better describes the leadership role during a meeting.
For a group that meets face-to-face for regular weekly meetings, each week a different person steps up to be the convener. The group typically has a routine that they follow for their meetings, and if the convener needs to do some preparation for the next meeting, then the convener responsibilities are rotated in advance so that they can prepare for the meeting.
For people who are not comfortable taking on a leadership role like convening a meeting, the group makes provisions to help those people learn the skills, and become comfortable in this kind of leadership role. Some folks may not ever exactly “like” being a convener, but once they learn the skills, they know that they can step up to do what needs to be done when this is needed by the group.
The convener does not “perform” many of the behaviors expected of a traditional chair, many of which lead to an arbitrary use of personal power at the expense of others in the group. Once everyone has checked in, and the agenda for the meeting is built, the process of rotating chair begins, and the convener shifts to a role of equal participation as a member of the group.
See the “Convener Guidelines” page for more information
Once group discussion begins, whoever is speaking is the “chair” at that time. Everyone else in the group listens without interruption and gives the speaker time to complete what they are saying. The person who is speaking (not the convener) recognizes the next person to speak. Those who wish to speak at any given time indicate that they want to speak by raising their hand; the current “chair” (the person who is speaking) then calls on a person who has not yet spoken, or has not spoken recently or often in the meeting. This practice helps to assure that everyone has a chance to say what they need or want to say.
Here are some guidelines that help to make sure that this process assures the fundamental value of having every voice heard:
- when you speak, be mindful of keeping your comments within a reasonable time limit so that there is time for others to speak.
- if your idea has already been expressed, do not repeat the idea other than to summarize and indicate that this is your opinion or idea as well. Then add anything you have to add to the discussion.
- invite others to express other points of view that might be different from your own in order to help create a safe space for all points of view.
For more information, see Chapter 7 (8th edition)