Can a Community be Successful Without Leadership? - A Look At "The Tyranny of Structurelessness"

in #leadership5 years ago (edited)

A community, no matter the size, needs leadership. We as humans are tribal by nature and we follow the crowd. It’s why establishing true leaders is so important- as a community will rise or fall based upon it.

There have been many organizations through time that attempted to be leaderless, an idea that everyone is equal and therefore no leaders are needed.

One most memorable to me personally, was the women’s movement in The United States - which was explored in an article titled THE TYRANNY of STRUCTURELESSNESS by Jo Freeman

(It’s a very interesting read and I recommend it to all.)

This article was sent to me early last year when I was helping to establish a Steem Foundation, which would essentially act as some sort of community entity that could be the human aspect to this chain, and voice of the community.

The idea was that while decentralization is important, for any group to be successful it must have some sort of organization.

I even kept repeating the phrase Decentralization doesn’t have to mean Disorganized. There were so many things we needed to address (in my opinion) to make STEEM successful, and empowering and bringing together the strong community seemed like the perfect way to do so.

Through the process, unfortunately, I realized that many individuals goals were not to improve STEEM over that of their own benefit necessarily. As in - their focus was themselves first, and would do what was needed to ensure they came out on top, and maybe self preservation was fogging the whole - “Improve STEEM and push it into the main stream arena”, which was the stated “goal” of the project from the beginning.

While this is probably something pretty normal, to me it was quite a blow.. as many of those involved goal was to improve STEEM, as we all benefit from that. Not improve my own standing or ensure I was on top.. as that had nothing to do with seeing STEEM succeed.

The only way I win (in my mind) was for the price of STEEM to go up, and that idea has influenced every decision I have made here. Looking back, that may have not been the most intelligent mindset, as only a few others share it.

I did decide to step away from the project due to this, as my altruistic mentality just couldn’t play the game and I didn’t support the direction it was going.

I bring this up though as after the process I became more aware of "leadership" in general. As while I have worked in management, that is a set goal with a company.. not building and helping to empower a community perhaps.. and I became fascinated with it and how the human aspect played its part.

I began looking more and more at leadership as whole, and how it compared to what we see here on Steem. And it’s something that I have struggled with ever since.

You see on Steem, we are a DPoS governance - Meaning those with stake have the most influence. It’s a set up I’ve always agreed with. After all.. it makes common sense that those that are invested the most have the most to gain and lose, so they would make the best decisions for the good of the platform.

But does that make them leaders?

This is something I’ve struggled with, as while I think most stake holders do have the best interest of STEEM at heart, I’m not sure they even see themselves as “Leaders.” Or perhaps also are stuck on the idea of a leaderless or decentralized community.

So what are we left with?

Well to examine this lets explore the article I linked above and their experience -

During the years in which the women's liberation movement has been taking shape, a great emphasis has been placed on what are called leaderless, structure less groups as the main -- if not sole -- organizational form of the movement. The source of this idea was a natural reaction against the over-structured society in which most of us found ourselves, and the inevitable control this gave others over our lives, and the continual elitism of the Left and similar groups among those who were supposedly fighting this over being overly governed for so long.

The idea of "structurelessness," however, has moved from a healthy counter to those tendencies to becoming a goddess in its own right. The idea is as little examined as the term is much used, but it has become an intrinsic and unquestioned part of women's liberation ideology.

For the early development of the movement this did not much matter. It early defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising, and the "structureless" rap group was an excellent means to this end. The looseness and informality of it encouraged participation in discussion, and its often supportive atmosphere elicited personal insight. If nothing more concrete than personal insight ever resulted from these groups, that did not much matter, because their purpose did not really extend beyond this.

It’s understandable to want to go with a leaderless community as we all are trying to escape that which we know - which is overstepping of government and infringement on individuals rights as well as no voice for the little guy.

So to go in the opposite direction is human nature. And while there is a defined goal or direction, this works ok.

But what happens when a new vision, goal or direction needs to be determined?

What happens when the original “goal” or direction for the this structureless, leaderless society no longer is achieving the end goal? What happens when something actually has to be done, decided upon, work put in etc for the society to continue to thrive?

Someone (or a group) must establish this direction and present it to the community. They need a direction, they need a goal, they need something to work towards.

Where there is a gap, someone will fill it.

The public is conditioned to look for spokespeople.

That’s right, we need a leader.. it’s just human nature.

While it has consciously not chosen spokespeople, the movement has thrown up many women who have caught the public eye for varying reasons. These women represent no particular group or established opinion; they know this and usually say so. But because there are no official spokespeople nor any decision-making body that the press can query when it wants to know the movement's position on a subject, these women are perceived as the spokespeople. Thus, whether they want to or not, whether the movement likes it or not, women of public note are put in the role of spokespeople by default.

This is one main source of the ire that is often felt toward the women who are labeled "stars." Because they were not selected by the women in the movement to represent the movement's views, they are resented when the press presumes that they speak for the movement. But as long as the movement does not select its own spokeswomen, such women will be placed in that role by the press and the public, regardless of their own desires.

This has several negative consequences for both the movement and the women labeled "stars." First, because the movement didn't put them in the role of spokesperson, the movement cannot remove them. The press put them there and only the press can choose not to listen. The press will continue to look to "stars" as spokeswomen as long as it has no official alternatives to go to for authoritative statements from the movement. The movement has no control in the selection of its representatives to the public as long as it believes that it should have no representatives at all.

So in the women’s movement, as an example, the need for a spokesperson or “leader” meant that anyone that had caught the public eye, for one reason or another, became a spokesperson or leader.. whether they represented the movement well or not.

This individual then represent the movement and all those involved, whether they were qualified to or not. And because the community did not put them there, they could not remove them. They were seen as the leaders and how they represented the group was how the world saw the group as a whole.

Were they asked a question about the basics of the movement and could not answer? Did they not have a clue what they were talking about? Did they come off like a used car salesman or a paid shill?

How do you think that made the outside world see the movement?

When a leader is not selected, sometimes those that raise to the top are not the best choice.. perhaps they are only their for their own personal gain and therefore are not great leaders after all.

Perhaps those that are seen as “popular” have no business speaking to the public at all on behalf of a movement or project, as they have no idea what they are even saying..or perhaps are only there to line their own pockets. How they present themselves to the world affects how the world sees everyone in the space. This was a negative that affected the women's movement and one they had a hard time overcoming.

How does any of this correlate to STEEM?

Maybe it doesn't, but I can't help to see some similar aspects happening here as was outlined in the article. We essentially are building a new economy, one that doesn't exist currently. We are building something new... we are doing something quite revolutionary... but do we actually have a vision and direction currently?

I believe we are in a place where we desperately need directions, a vision, a plan or we will find ourselves being completely irrelevant no matter the effort we have put in. No matter the technical advances we offer, no one will know about them.. and therefore they will not care.

I see an internal fight, which is normal for us, and I see that perhaps our stakeholders are not the leaders we need, but perhaps it's their responsibility to establish the leaders that will improve their investment and therefore the whole ecosystem. Instead of just whoever seems to be catching the public's eye.

I see many here that are seen as "leaders" who have either self proclaimed themselves as such, or just stated repeatedly how much they "do" for STEEM (no matter their actions) that the community has just gotten used to seeing them as such. I would call these self proclaimed leaders.. or just those that caught the public eye for one reason or another. (It is a social platform, so this seems even more relevant to us than in the movement described in the article, as we are essentially an attention economy).

To me, many come across like paid shills who no one outside of Steem will ever take seriously, and they don't. Or they are individuals who are simply looking out for their own gains, in my opinion, while standing on the backs of the teams that got them there in the first place. While not acknowledging them in the slighest.

We have projects, which we praise, that are literally using the shared inflation pool to bribe people to use their platform.. and even if it's abused.. they keep on paying them. They even try to hide it so no one notices, great "leaders" there.

Or we have those in the community who post about "steem" so often, whether it's just to get the autovotes or make themselves seem relevant, that how could they not be seen as such? I mean they must know what they are talking about.. right?

How does this make the outside world see the project?

I believe that having these members of the community are important, and add value.. I just don't think that being in the public eye makes you a leader automatically.

I think, like many of you.. I just have concerns about a few things here when it comes to leadership. And as someone who has spent two years here not only investing my hard earned money, but also volunteering countless hours of my time, in hopes that the success of STEEM would make it all worth it .. it's something I think about a lot -

  • Who are our "leaders" here? And do we connect "stake" to leadership too often?

  • What are these "leaders" actually DOING? How are they representing STEEM to the outside world? What is the image they are giving those not here already?

  • Are they leading the community? Are they giving us a vision and direction? Or are they just making posts that essentially only wank the echo chamber as we all watch the price go lower and lower?

  • Do they even understand STEEM enough to explain it to the outside world? If not, why in the world would we want them to do so?

  • Do their actions show anything more than posting? Or is that essentially the "leadership" they bring to the table?

  • Do their "efforts" have anything to do with improving STEEM? Or just making themselves look good to those of us already here?

When I compare the Steem ecosystem to that of say, Bitcoin... I see something vastly different-

In the BTC Space -

  • Stake does not equate to leadership.. some people are just investors. And that is ok.

  • Those investors seek out and sponsor those "leaders" who are representing Bitcoin WELL.. as it improves their investment, and they know that.

  • Just showing up gets you nothing.

  • Saying "bitcoin" does not make you a leader.

  • Everyone in bitcoin wants bitcoin price to go up, and their actions say so.

  • There is no fight about who is the most popular, no one fucking cares, they just want bitcoin to to be successful - they have an agreed upon goal.

  • Paid shills don't last long, as they make everyone look dumb. Everyone

  • People are actually talking about bitcoin, out in the world (whether they are paid to or not).

  • They pick their "leaders", and support/lift them up - not just whoever catches the public's eye.


Yeah that's right, they seem to understand the goal and have a vision... maybe it's because they actually helped lift those who were the most qualified, and not those who just posted the most.

Now it has been said that our shared inflation pool adds some challenges here (one bitcoin doesn't clearly have)... as while there is a long term incentive to stakeholders and users to do the above (on Steem), the easiest (and quickest) incentive lies in just using the rewards pool to get an instant roi.

Perhaps that is why we see more focus on internal issues rather than external, I am not sold on that yet.. but I can see the logic there for sure.

"Leaders" on Steem

I think we have many leaders on Steem, but maybe because they are quiet leaders, I do not think we are lifting them up. Instead I see a bit of the gap being filled with greasy used car salesmen types, paid shills, and individuals that like to hear themselves speak... and they, my dears.. are not damn leaders... and will lead this place nowhere.

I know that may not be very popular to say, but I think it's an honest one.

I am having a hard time believing in Steem lately, and it's not due to the fact that I don't see the potential. I have always seen the potential.. in fact the missed opportunity of that potential is the hardest thing for me to deal with here. Our tech is top notch, the community is priceless.. but without good leadership I am afraid we will just continue down the path of being irrelevant.. and I see that in the price every single day.

Spending so much time in the non Steem crypto space lately has made me see what I knew all along -

There is no reason that Steem is not seen as a top platform and have a better ranking in the CMC.

... other than our dire lack of leadership, and perhaps bad choices of public figures in the past (and present). I find that hard to swallow... missed opportunity with such potential.

Final Thoughts

I am not sure how to fight this anymore, or perhaps I am just sick of fighting everyone on everything (and I am sure they are sick of me too), as everywhere I look I see people and projects focused on how to suck out the most out of the rewards pool, and no focus on how to raise the price of STEEM as a whole, by stepping outside of our echo chamber.

I do believe that many of the upcoming additions to the ecosystem, like Steemit Inc's Communities and SMT's will hopefully set us on the right path...

But I am still concerned about the lack of vision, direction, or healthy leadership.. and I do not believe "Build it and they will come" works in the tech space.

I am willing to admit that maybe I was wrong about my own vision for STEEM and maybe those I have been fighting had the right idea after all. Perhaps things will just begin to fall into place with the upcoming tech additions.

I do not believe I have everything figured out, know more than anyone else or have the "right" ideas... I am just simply saying - This is the concern I have based on what I am seeing, and I just don't see a set plan to combat it.

This place is special to me, and I am concerned on it's direction, that's all.

In my opinion, a structure-less society with no leaders will surely fail.. almost as quickly as a society with the wrong leaders... and I just don't believe in our leadership (or lack there of) or the new attempts I see from individuals to become such and therefore I am struggling to continue to commit my time to such.

I strongly believe in the potential of STEEM, but do not support what I see these days. Hopefully that will improve soon.

This post is not intended to be negative or attack anyone, there is no snarky tone in my text... I simply am sharing my thoughts on a topic I find pretty important and one that affects us all.

In hopes of starting a discussion, as we are all in this together.

Do you feel a structureless society can be successful?

Do you see any similarities between the article and where we find ourselves on Steem?

What do you feel is missing most here?

Is it our lack of organization or lack of leadership that sticks out the most? Or both? Neither?

Perhaps we just don’t have the tools quite yet to empower the leaders who would push us to reach our potential... but I also personally feel this isn’t something that just tech alone can fix.

What are your thoughts?


"A community with the right tools can be unstoppable, but first they must come together."


Justine for CEO of Steemit Inc...time to shuffle the cards

😳 oh gosh no, I’m entirely too politically incorrect for that ... pretty sure I told someone to go fuck themselves at least once yesterday. 😬 😅

Agreed, @justineh would indeed make a good CEO, politically incorrect or not. Who would be better?

she can be a bitch sometimes but she has the right attitude and the right vision. She would be the type of CEO that would go on Discord and hangout

@pennsif wrote a post about electing Regional Leaders about a month or so ago @justineh.

And if it eventually becomes popular enough the current Regional Leaders can have an expiration date so that Regional Leaders get elected by their countries on an annual basis.

I think one of the requirements to be a Regional Leader should be regular meetups.

P.S. We do meetups once a week here in Davao City and when the time is right, we'll add meetups in other parts of the Philippines (most of our members live in Davao City) 👍

Regional leaders aren’t elected as far as I know, he just chose them. But yes I think it’s great to rally steemians in each area again and build the community stronger. Meetups are great for moral and relationship building.

I do think think leadership that I’m discussing is completely different though.. curating posts who use a regional tag and meetup with steemians is great, but there still needs to be actual leadership.

IF we had direction and vision, we could empower these “regional leaders” even more as they could actually have a goal to work towards.

Glad you guys are meeting up regularly! Nothing like being in a room for of steemians ❤️

I think they are not elected yet based on the fact that there wasn't that much support for @pennsif's call for Regional Leaders.

If his post got more attention, there could be elections and at the same time, Regional Groups like #SteemPhilippines need to be built first with the members accounted for before Regional Elections could be held.

I personally don't mind if I am the official Regional Leader or not since I will be doing what I am doing regardless of if I am the official "Regional Leader" or not.

I do think think leadership that I’m discussing is completely different though.. curating posts who use a regional tag and meetup with steemians is great, but there still needs to be actual leadership.

I personally don't think it is all that much different since Leaders should be able to rally people in-person, otherwise they are more like marketing gurus and televangelists than leaders IMO.

One of the things I am doing is encouraging passion for the #steem blockchain, and we have developers in the Philippines who are starting to build a Steem-based DAPP after being introduced to our meetups.

I am also interested in getting to know the people who join our meetups so that we can all leverage one anothers strengths to build on Steem, start projects / businesses, create content etc.

Aside from that, the best #Leadership posts I have seen that are good for the entire blockchain are from @pennsif, but I don't think his posts got the traction they deserved:

  1. Steem Ambassadors Program

  1. Regional Leaders

  1. Steem Merchandise

  1. Community Action

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I only read half of your post, but I'll add my thoughts anyway. I had always known that all organisations need a structure, whether it be nation states, public corporations, voluntary communities, non-profit organisations etc. There's a millennia of evidence about what happens with anarchy - a group of people, almost always selfish, usually incompetent and malevolent, swoop in to fill the power vacuum.

When I first joined Steem in 2016, there were rabid fans here who were convinced this will be the second coming of the internet. Of course, that sounded bogus even then, but I was open minded. Who knows, maybe this is a new paradigm, things will be somewhat different? I'm afraid, it has adhered 100% to historical expectations.

The only decentralised systems that work are those where a platform is built, but there are profitable and successful structured organisations on top of it. Linux is a pretty good example in the tech space, but Bitcoin and especially Ethereum also seems to be getting there. Steem has no chance.

On a related note, no, SMT and Communities will not change anything. It's the entire story of Steem, full of hopium and delusion. In 2016, it was the new economics that'd save Steem; in 2017 it was Communities (lol) & new reward structure; in 2018 it was SMT (lol), scalability & RC; in 2019 it was EIP. In 2020, it is SMT and Communities (again, lol). To be clear, I'm not denying that these have some marginal benefits, but no, none of this will matter unless the fundamental problems, which are conveniently always ignored, are fixed. That'll require nothing short of a complete overhaul of Steem from grounds up. No, Steem is absolutely not a top project, and it's exactly where it deserves to be on the CMC list. It will never be a top project as long as everyone here is so delusional and cult-like. This is the very definition of insanity. Sorry, but I'm sure you know deep down this is the truth.

All that said, I do think Steem can build a small but sustainable niche for itself... with, as you say, the right leadership - that will rebuild Steem with a better paradigm. But any claims that this is a "top 10 crypto" or "Facebook killer" are severely delusional.

I agree with most of what you said here and I understand you didn’t read it all, but if you did I think you would find there is nothing delusional in there, in fact I’m pretty sure someone will call me a negative force who is hurting the community, again. 😄

I think Steem has potential, but yes I agree that as is I don’t think it will ever be “successful”. I think we need an overhaul, and some good leadership.

To be honest I’ve never understood the “Facebook killer” thing anyways.. seems like just some hype words. 🙂

I think Steem can fill a niche, but first we have some work to do.

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about you specifically. I know that you have never claimed Steem is a "top 10 crypto", "better than Bitcoin", "Facebook killer" and any such hyperbolic claim. Sadly, there are some influencers, witnesses and Steemit Inc employees who do think like cultists, and it's a large reason why Steem is in a downward spiral. You can't improve a platform if you refuse to understand or acknowledge its fundamental and critical flaws.

I mean, look at this from the official Steem twitter account. This is batshit insane levels of hubris, to the point of being hilarious.

Sadly, there are some influencers, witnesses and Steemit Inc employees who do think like cultists, and it's a large reason why Steem is in a downward spiral.

Yep, agreed. This is what I was referring to with “paid shill”, they sort of make us all look bad as they clearly have no idea what they are talking about and make it sound like they are just desperate to sell their “scam”.

People in the crypto space aren’t dumb, this sort of “marketing” does not work, and quite frankly it can be quite detrimental to a project in my opinion.

For this reason @surfermarly left steemit, we love her and you too, but if i read good you think the same way,
it is not possible that the person who learn me about farming as @llfarm which i see around two years ago first disappear and then think in left steemit or think the possibilities that this place go out for do not have leather ship, well we hope see you here with your thinks with a brave to speak with wales without fear, for their down well, do not leave steemit this community need you because always we need a person who could inspiring us.
Happy foraging and farming life.
Best regard.


Well, I came here to read, not to lead.

To be fair, given the lack of vision and direction, I would say we have no real leaders on the chain.

Most people probably thought @ned, @dan, STINC, etc. were going to figure out all those things for us and all we needed to do was sit back and enjoy the “decentralised” paradise.

Jokes are on them.

Now, we need strong leaders with directions. There will be a lot of conflicts, but that’s inevitable. No unity. No result. Simple as that. The follies of having a “leaderless” project set the stage for a figurative civil war.

i like your post please followw me

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good post, really, i did enjoy it. i could feel the turmoil and passion for things to be different. i liked that, i hope you find the resolutions you desire. i suggest hiking, grab that camera, get out there, have some fun.

Thanks! And I’ve been building fence and planning a yearly gala to raise money for a community center.. don’t worry, I’m having fun 😜 These are just some things that have been on my mind and I figured I might as well share them.

what?! that's awesome. congrats. yeah for sure, get it off ya chest. better out than in my grandad used to say as he would tinker with his tomatoes in his greenhouse in the garden... ;) cheers!

Good post

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Your post talks about something I've been thinking about lately (but in a more personal way). I I've been here for a year and a half and the last months I asked myself "What am I doing for the community?" and I started participating more actively here to see how things work around here.

I had an idea to bring new people to Steem (I'm talking about 300-400 new people who are very likely to stay here) and obviously I'll need some support with that (like accounts, for example). But who do I propose the idea to? Who can really support it or who cares? In these cases I think it's very important to have a leader. The worst of all is to think that nobody really cares what you try to contribute, then there is no longer a matter of leadership, but of the community as such.

I think I'm getting a little off topic, but your publication agreed with something I've been thinking about lately haha. Your publication is very interesting, thanks for the content!

Yes! We need to give the community the tools they need to be able to help STEEM succeed as well. This was my goal for the foundation at first as well.. a place for the community to come and discuss or work together on things and then the foundation could be the “voice” as it could possibly be heard more than say one community member asking for help. We are stronger when we come together 🙂

I like your way of thinking and the way the foundation gives voice to any member of the community, although I haven't been so attentive to the project, I see I should try to start there. Can I dm you in Discord?

My DMs are always open, of course.. but I’m not involved with the foundation anymore and am not entirely sure the current plans. They do have a discord though -

Oh, I didn't know that. Sorry for the late answer, I had a lot of homework :( I'll reach you in Discord in a moment

If you need accounts I have sone to spare. Not enough to cover the amount you are talking about but I could supply 50-100 if needed. Find a couple of us and there are your accounts. I’m all about folks taking it in their own hands and kinda building through their own grassroots movement. If more films actually gave a shit and tried to build up their own community a bit, we could be singing a little bit of a different tune. Lmk

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Hey @blewitt! That sounds really amazing! It's a big help that will help me to carry out what I want to do. I'm working on talks about Steem and incredibly in the few next days I will be doing a talk in my school (to over 100 people). I was planning to make posts about it (and further explaining everything I'm doing and what I want to do), but as I mentioned earlier, apparently not many will care about that and I don't think it's profitable for me (But I'll probably do it as a personal note so I don't get lost on the way haha)

When I have done the first talk and have the first list of people who want to join Steem, I will write to you (If you leave me your Discord or something, that would be great)

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