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Phillip Mueller:

"In the past the leader was an authority figure.The term “leader” begs the question: Of what? The immediate answer is: of followers. Notice that it is content agnostic. (Leading towards good or evil is still leading). The leader would focus on the crowds it leads: big, small, fully committed, yet-to-be-convinced, etc. The leader “knows more,” therefore had more authority, therefore, was legitimized.

Anti-leadership / second-order leadership / “designers” begs a different question: not “who and how do I lead?” but “what should be achieved?” which is where the focus should be: the target, aim, direction in front. Not the crowd behind. The anti-leader knows that she does not know, that the emperor has no clothes. In that sense, she relies on the organization’s tentacles to gather, interpret, and act on information.

Implementing Adaptive Strategies through Anti-Leadership

With the advent of constructivist thinking in academia, professors have been slowly moving from taking the role of “the sage on the stage, to the guide by the side.” With adaptive strategizing, CEOs will have to learn this lesson. And it will not be easy to move away from the idea of leading, where essentially all others are blind followers, willing to internalize the messages of the leader.

The core principle of anti-leadership is fairly easy. When you cannot analyze, forecast, and plan anymore, you need to empower your organization to be able to modulate it to turbulent contexts, by allowing for variation (think Google’s 20% rule), define meta-principles of selection through mechanisms such as simulation, scorecards, or actual performance in the market place (think Google’s testing of any interface changes), and amplify what works, through scaling-up mechanisms." (


Philipp Mueller:

The PILS Framework of Anti-Leadership:

"This type of modulation can be done by designing your organizations around processes in the following way:

Process: Design a beta-process, deliberately, expose it to the real world before it is finished, so that feedback and selection mechanisms can help it adapt.

Interface: Design as many interfaces to the process as possible, these can be internal or external, they can be to experts or to the unwashed masses. Interface design is a second order strategy guided by the question, who should be allowed to contribute to the process and it is a third order strategy, when you ask who should be allowed to make changes to the process.

Legitimacy: Do not stop in defining interfaces, which can be seen as a technical issue (what APIs to use, what standards, etc.), but imagine communities around them (and again these can be contractually bound to you or not. They might be experts, carriers of local knowledge, or crowds).

Scale: The issue of scaling processes is not trivial. Just as different forces of nature work differently at different scales, think about how gravity does not really affect an an ant – it will survive a fall from a 10 story house, however, wind does. An elephant on the other hand will not be swayed by wind, but could not survive the drop. So the challenge for the anti-leader is to think about processes at different levels of scale and how to get from one to the other." (