Leading and Following

My “Leadership in the Creative and Cultural Industries” course has met twice now and we are making progress toward understanding that leadership and management are not the same, that leadership can happen anywhere in an organization, and that authentic leadership results from the outward manifestation of our personal values.


Who better to guide an exercise in leading through space, time, and energy than Liz Lerman and her collaborator John Borstel? They asked the students (including me) to embody leading and following first by pairing us up, having one partner close their eyes and the other leading us on a walk around the room and adjacent hallway; then we switched. But what really hit home was the second half of the exercise. Leader led the sightless follower on a walk and then stopped and left them. The follower waiting until they were approached and then led by another participant. We proceeded in this way, with participants given agency to switch between sighted and sightless when paused, for about five minutes. As we debriefed, students talked about how they needed to feel empathy as both leader and follower, the importance of trust, and the sense of love in the room. These were personal values that had been ranked highly by the students in the previous class session’s “value cards” exercise in our first session. Experiencing these values – and that leadership is itself fluid and not necessarily tied to “rank” or “office” – was itself in-valuable. Also invaluable is the notion that learning good “followership” is as important as learning good “leadership.”

Thank you, Liz and John!

(“The Blind,” Pieter van der Heyden, public domain)

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Cal State LA and principal/owner of Creative Infrastructure LLC. The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of Cal State LA. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix.
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2 Responses to Leading and Following

  1. Pingback: Beauty Helps | Creative Infrastructure

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