Seven Themes of Leadership in Collective Organizations

Rebecca Zelis
3 min readMar 27, 2021


Designed to support every person who interacts with and within an organization, Collective Organizations replace hierarchical mindsets with regenerative systems and a new perspective on leadership.

Theme 1: “Leadership” can look different
Collective Leaders take many forms. Unlike the dominant savior/hero leader, in a Collective Organization leadership may look like inquiry, curiosity, humility, commitment, kindness, empathy, and magnanimity. Along with leadership styles, definitions of “success” and “achievement” also take different forms depending on individual and group values, experiences, and context or circumstances.

Feminist messaging can still presume masculine leadership styles.

Theme 2: A leader can be unsure
Leaders do not have to know everything. Instead, leaders must be open to what they don’t know, finding creative and equitable ways to seek out and curate information and feedback. This allows leaders to take steps to better support the mission, process, and well-being of the group.

Theme 3: Leaders find power in collaboration
Leaders work together to create positive change in their community. Instead of a competitive culture where knowledge is equated to power, a leader’s satisfaction comes from being one of many who collaborate, share information, and contribute toward the greater goal and mission.

Theme 4: The development of leadership skills (and personal growth) is non-linear
A leader is not infallible, nor do they expect others to be. A leader responds to mistakes (theirs and others’) with inquiry and the organization recognizes and supports failure as part of the larger process of learning, embracing creative risk as essential to the company’s growth.

Theme 5: A leader questions the status quo
Leaders in Collective Organizations are not meant to be reinforcing the status quo. Instead, they are constantly observing what is working and addressing what is not serving members of their community. Establishing trust and processes that enable a continual dialogue, along with rewarding honest feedback, is essential to ensuring systems consistently function in a way that serves all employees.

Theme 6: A leader knows every interaction creates a narrative
Leaders recognize that every single interaction they have with an individual or group creates a story that impacts people and the overall culture.

Theme 7: Everyone is integral to the group’s success
Collective Leaders know a group is more successful if everyone in the community participates and contributes. This means that the well-being, self-awareness, and skill sets of individuals within a group can directly impact relationships, culture, processes, and outcomes. Emphasis on the health and well-being of each individual is paramount, as well as a focus on healthy relationships and interpersonal skills.

One of the most significant benefits of a Collective Organization is diversity. The structure of a Collective Organization is designed to to diminish hierarchies and promote fluid and diverse staff partnerships, allowing for greater interaction and collaboration. The assumption that people are divided into “leaders” and “not leaders” is replaced with recognition that diverse traits can be valued and utilized differently in different situations. “Leaders” rely less on title/seniority and more on facilitating connections while demonstrating a personal commitment to employees and the group’s collective values.



Rebecca Zelis

Culture Strategist improving how institutions and systems interact with people.