Does a self-organizing team require a leader?

Not long ago, my daughter got her first chicken ( Uno) and she was so proud of her. Up until that purchase, I hadn’t paid much attention to chickens. I’ve come to find them quite remarkable.

I also didn’t realize that chickens must be purchased in groups as they don’t do well on their own so fortunately, our neighbors owned a number of them, so Uno was invited to live with the neighbors’ flock.

Could a self-organizing team without a leader be similar to a flock of chickens being let out in the morning to do what comes natural?

I began taking an interest and in how chickens in a flock interact with each other and their environment. My mind raced with interesting comparisons in what I observed in the flock and what I have experienced and seen in people.

While quite a stretch, I began to get concerned that we may have more in common with chickens than I had ever imagined.

Assertion: While chickens can be part of a group, they might really just be out for themselves


Observed natural chicken tendencies

  • They eat their food and will eat their neighbor’s food too
  • They spend material time scratching at the dirt (seems pointless, but there is probably something they are looking for)
  • In the space they control, nothing green can grow
  • They chase each other for no apparent reason
  • There always seems to be one chicken that is treated as less of an equal
  • They each try to gain the highest ground and try to stay there until another chicken takes their place
  • They spend their days watching each other closely
  • When they discover another chicken with something that they want, they immediately try to take it from them

While my observations are overly cynical, I am learning that even the best self-organizing teams need a leader to help them set clear objectives tied to a vision each person can believe in for them to be truly high performing, engaged, and happy. Without a commitment to something greater, our chicken tendencies are likely to surface.

Shepherding: The art of becoming the leader others want to follow.