What defines one’s worth? How do you situate yourself into the myriad of tangled webs that form your life? How does worth, and a sense of being, cohabitate within the day to day schedule of today’s busy lives? What is it that makes people step out, or more appropriately, step up to a position that benefits more than just themselves? The purpose of this paper is to examine the idea of the citizen leader with respect to why we have such leaders, the common characteristics found within this group, examples of various citizen leaders amongst us, and the benefits of this style of leadership.
I have to say firstly that I am not yet a citizen leader. I would like to be but I am not. Not that ideas are not circulating in my brain. They just have not emerged, nor have I had the time and commitment to take on the challenge. The question for many might be, what is a citizen leader? One who leads citizens would be the obvious quick answer. In The Leaders Companion (1995), Wren includes the chapter called Defining a Citizen Leader, which was written by Richard Couto. In this chapter Couto describes a citizen leader as follows:
“The citizen leader I have in mind facilitates organized action to improve conditions of people in low-income communities and to address other basic needs of society at the local level. Their goal is to raise the floor beneath all members of society, rather than to enable a few to touch its vaulted ceiling. Sometimes citizen leaders work for change, protesting proposed toxic waste dumping near their homes, for example. In all cases, they exhibit the leadership which occurs when people take sustained action to bring about change that will permit them continued or increasing well-being. They recognize the existence of community, a set of relationships among people forged by some special bond. Sometimes that bond includes residence in a particular place. It always includes the common human condition with all of its aspirations and potentials.” (p.12)
While I agree with the above definition it does not reflect the potential of today’s world with the proliferation of computer and information technology. Social sites such as google groups, twitter, and facebook allow for instantaneous distribution of important messages worldwide. Online news organizations, satellite radio, and television, in combination with computer technology, allow for dissemination of information to garner support for “the cause”. Therefore, I see the definition of the citizen leader expanding from the local level, as decribed by Couto, to an international level as well, as demonstrated by three of the four citizen leaders that I will discuss in this paper. Morse (1989) gives a different view with her idea of public leadership in which she states:
“understanding that we are all part of a common human endeavor. This understanding requires the skill and capacity of thought, judgement, imagination, and the courage to act. It means that we accept diversity; that we are...