"The Practice of Leadership" was a course co-taught by a woman and a man where they made a very simple opening statement.
It's nothing personal, but somebody's got to lead.
At that moment I was taken aback. Why can't we govern ourselves? Isn't the best form of leadership leadership that gets out of the way? I should trust those in the group to play their role? —Well that's just it. There is a role for leadership. And somebody, even Joe, may actually take those reins and lead. My whole outlook and approach to leadership changed that semester.
Dictatorships are easy to understand but they are the worst form of top heavy society. Communism makes surprising sense on paper, with miserable actual results. Anarchy in its purest form is worse than chaos. Democracy has gotten a bloody lip to go with its black eye of late. Fixing the US government? Adopt the Unconference model.
Take BarCamp (please!). Played as anarchy BarCamp would result in—er, nothing. No decisions made. No actual conference. No sharing of knowledge, and certainly no after party. Dictatorship would be easy. Let's just find a magnanimous personality (applications being taken right now) and a crowd will follow. Just not the Nashville tech crowd. A BarCamp democracy would create an aisle. An aisle divided by what, platforms, back end vs. front end, t-shirt color? And taking sides looks real ugly amongst smart folk.
The BarCamp Unconference is a blend of anarchistic aspirations, democratic forum and hierarchical (not so dictatorial) implementation. It should never be an Anti-conference, although it's history sounds as though it was. It can never be the exclusivity-conference ironically because the participants are too proud.
It falls to the community to lead itself and in doing so this year I and it chose me, because "It's nothing personal, but somebody's got to lead". Chairing BarCamp has proven more challenging that cat herding, but more rewarding that public office. The chair has very little heat due to the amazing and talented crew.
When it came to our biggest decision, open session voting vs. random draw, I spent a week listening and cringing. The best way I knew how to lead what was a functional anarchy was to facilitate every voice with as much balance as possible. And then something beautiful happened. The collective spoke. Dissenting voices were understood and accepted. We knew it was risky but we wanted to be a more-real BarCamp and open session selection to the community for a vote.
We chose to be more unconference-like over the big crowd's preference to know who was speaking when. We chose to put the schedule in the hands of the participants. We chose the more difficult thing for the excitement it garnered in us. We chose to retool Nashville's BarCamp because we felt Nashville was ready for it. We chose to be open, not to be anti-conference but to be pro people. We know you have the talent. We know Nashville is cutting the edge.
Maybe "Alt-conference" would be a better descriptive. Or "Open-conference". "Freedom-conference". Actually, we have a vetted, tried-and-true descriptive already. "Unconference" it is.