Leaderful Organising

2 to 9 Oct 2022

Skills and understanding for building effective collective power

We are living through a period of historical disruption. The stalled engine of neoliberal growth, an increasing sense of distributive injustice, bankrupted political leadership, and the “fierce urgency of [the ecological] now”, are the cracks in a failing system. They are also the spaces that have opened up in which our social movements can contest our future. This training explores key skills and organisational structures needed to rise to this challenge.


What is Leaderful Organising?

Leaderful organising sits within a broad theory of change that sees the building of collective power and agency as a key driver of social transformation towards greater social justice and ecological integrity. Organising is the activity of building that collective power and agency.

It aims to address the challenges involved in bringing together the best aspects of leadership with the best aspects of more horizontal ways of organising. It includes both a critique of traditional leadership and power, as well as a critique of leaderlessness and the limitations of merely horizontal forms of organising. It seeks to nurture the qualities of responsibility, initiative and accountability in individuals, while honouring the values of solidarity, inclusion, mutual empowerment and equity.

The practices of leaderfulness draw on renewed and expanded notions of leadership, such as the idea of “group-centered leadership” articulated by Ella Baker, who was critical of a leadership style which tends to centralize power, decision making and responsibility for meaningful action in a single leader. She claimed that “Strong people don’t need [a] strong leader”.

Leaderfulness goes beyond leadership as merely the quality of individuals, to engender a culture of leaderfulness in which power is distributed appropriately and all members of an organisation or network are supported to grow into leaderfulness. In addition to supporting the acquisition of leadership qualities by individuals, a leaderful culture requires structures and systems that enable the distribution of power and influence – and nurture leaderfulness in us all. These structures and systems are rooted in the values of solidarity or what the systems scientist Donella Meadows calls ‘going for the good of the whole’.

“Go to the people, learn from them. Live with them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. The best of leaders when the job is done, when the task is accomplished, the people will all say we have done it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

We will explore ideas and practices related to:

  • The ideas of “group-centred leadership”, Transfromative Leadership and feminist notions of leadership (Ella Baker), which allows for leadership to be shared and accountable
  • Leaderful movements instead of leaderless movements
  • Leadership that enables groups to embody their values
  • Models that avoid the failings of both classic hierarchies and the limitations of fetishized horizontalism
  • The adaptation of learning about ‘agile’ organisational leadership to the context of socio-political work
  • Leadership development as a practice to support groups to move beyond mobilising to organising.

The aims of the training are:

  • To support the building of collective power, agency, and leaderfulness of social movements, organisations and groups working to achieve structural transformation to challenge ecological irrationality and socio-political injustice.
  • To enable learning that can develop participants’ capacity to practice leaderful organizing and build movements where leadership is mutually empowering, appropriately distributed, accountable, and agile.
  • To create a space for collective reflection, analysis, and learning from participants’ experiences of social movement work across Europe.

So, the workshop will help participants to:

  • Gain an increased understanding of the practice and principles of Leaderful Organising and its value in movement building.
  • Examine issues around empowerment, leadership, understanding power dynamics and collective processes.
  • Learn ways of developing personal skills for holding and distributing power, holding and sharing responsibilities, and other transformative leadership qualities.
  • Explore issues and techniques relevant to implementing structures that can nurture a leaderful culture in organisations and groups.
  • Increase your understanding of group-work skills, including communication skills and ways of working with conflict, to transform energy depleting situations.
  • Gain experience of methods of organising and community building that can express the values we are working for and increase personal and group capacity.
  • Reflect deeply on your own personal history of activism, identifying patterns and tendencies, and find ways of skilfully transforming these where needed.
  • Identify and drawn upon the sources of nourishment and inspiration that support your engagement and help you realise your potential as an organiser and empowered agent for social change.


“Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.” (Marshall Ganz)


Who is it aimed at?
Anyone involved in socially engaged action addressing ecological, political and social justice issues. We embrace a broad definition of activism, including: Resistance – action preventing further damage to ecosystems and social justice; Renewal – action focused on developing and creating alternatives for healthier societies and communities; and Building Resilience – action supporting increased resilience in communities to weather the uncertain times ahead.

Suggested Contribution
In the solidarity economy: €400/€700/€1000
(see the details of our approach to Solidarity Economics for details)

The Team

Our Name

Ulex: Latin (argelaga Catalan, gorse English) noun:

1. A thorny-evergreen flowering shrub, with a high capacity for regeneration and resilience. Its seedpods open in contact with fire and it reshoots from charred stumps. A successionary plant that grows well under challenging conditions. It improves soil fertility through nitrogen fixing, preparing the way for renewed biodiversity.

2. A traditional choice for igniting fires. Burns hot and bright.

3. A networked project adding nutrition and fertility to European social movements through training and capacity building. It kindles the realisation of social justice, ecological intelligence, and cognitive vitality.