Traits of Catalytic Leaders

In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom highlight the value of what they call ‘leaderless’ organizations. Although I don’t endorse leaderless organizations per se, one chapter describes tools that successful non-leader leaders use to catalyze their respective organizations. I’ve listed below some of their insights from this unusual perspective.

Qualities they suggest would apply to any leader.

  • Genuine interest in others
  • Loose connections (they don’t limit themselves to a few close friends but have many connections)
  • Mapping (catalysts think of who they know, who those people know, how they all relate to one another, and how they fit into a huge mental map)
  • Desire to help others
  • Passion
  • Meet people where they are (there is a difference between passionate and pushy; catalysts rely less on persuasion and more on meeting people where they are )
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Trust
  • Inspiration (catalysts often inspire others to work toward a goal that often doesn’t involve their own personal gain)
  • Tolerance for ambiguity (they learn to be OK when they don’t have concrete answers to big questions)
  • Hands-Off approach (they are less apt to use command and control)
  • Receding (after they accomplish what they intended, they get out of the way)

The authors also contrast CEO’s to Catalysts.

CEO’s vs Catalysts:

  • the boss vs a peer
  • command-and-control vs trust
  • rational vs emotionally intelligent
  • powerful vs inspirational
  • directive vs collaborative
  • in the spotlight vs behind the scenes
  • order vs ambiguity
  • organizing vs connecting

What do you think about leader-less organizations? Do you think leadership is either one or the other?

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