I do not read every trendy leadership and business book that gets recommended. I simply don’t have time, much less real interest in a great deal of this type of literature. I am aware of the most-talked about titles but read only a select number.
Recently, over a lunch with ministry leader Bob Shank in California, I was encouraged to read The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (Penguin: New York, 2006). This book, co-authored by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, is the work of two Silicon Valley guys who are entrepreneurs and business consultants. Their writing style is breezy, fun and provides story-telling at its best. Rarely have I read a book that was so enjoyable even (maybe especially) when I did not entirely agree with the point the authors made. But the big point made here, namely that decentralized, leaderless organizations are the future, is one that I do agree with very deeply.
This book is about how things happen when “there’s no one in charge. It’s about what happens when there’s no hierarchy. You’d think there would be disorder, even chaos. But in many arenas, a lack of traditional leadership is giving rise to powerful groups that are turning industry and society upside down. In short, there’s a revolution raging all around us” (5).
The starfish represents the organism that you cannot control or manage. But you also cannot easily kill it. Cut off one of the five points of the starfish and it regenerates and comes back stronger than ever. Cut off the head of the spider and even though it has eight legs and eyes it will still die. The starfish organization is free, open and dynamic. One model used for the starfish in the book is Alcoholics Anonymous, a leaderless organization that did not envision a large organization accountable to one central authority but rather numerous small circles organized around an ideology that was put forward in the Twelve Steps.
No technology underscores the power of leaderless organisms/organizations quite like the Internet. The problem is that “interaction