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In 2002/3 John Jopling and I wrote

Gaian Democracies:

Redefining Globalisation and People-Power

This site introduces its key ideas and some associated topics


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Roy Madron 2005

Leading the Gaian Revolution: Commonsense for Desperate Times


Gaian Democracies: Redefining Globalisation & People-Power by Roy Madron & John Jopling

Roy Madron: Biography

Radio Interview with Jane Taylor, from Resonance FM

Email address: rm(at)

Key propositions:

  • Liberating political leaders release the potential of the people in a purposeful human system.

  • Liberating political leaders are committed to their own learning through engaging in the re-configuration dialogues with their fellow-citizens.

  • Liberating political leaders replace a command-and-control culture of monologue with a culture of dialogue.


Good and bad leaders are all around us. Whether they are leading a tennis club, a choir, a hospital, a school or a government department, the differences between good or bad leaders are easy to spot. Ask any group of people to spell out the differences between good leaders and bad leaders and this is the kind of list that they will produce:i

good leaders tend to..

bad leaders tend to..

be flexible

be inflexible

be competent

value status above skill

be sensitive to people and situations

be aggressive - even physically violent

have clear values and philosophies

have no clear values

admit their mistakes

believe they are infallible

trust and value the people they lead


be decisive - takes decisions well

have no direction, unpredictable

praise more than criticise

play favourites

be versatile

be emotionally blind

be committed to their own development

be lazy

challenge you

make a fool of you in public

listen well and encourage involvement

be remote

be open about their own needs

be condescending

be not afraid to use their power

bully you

encourage you to use your power

undermine you

be humble

be humourless

be tough

be ruthless, cowardly, insecure

be able to take criticism

be unable to accept the buck

be stable

be depressed

take risks

be careerists

think clearly and value the truth

lie to you and rarely like to hear the truth

delegate and encourage leadership

use calculated abuse

be imaginative

see themselves as needing to be ‘strong’

protect you

let you down

be approachable, reachable

will not communicate: send you memos

mentor you

talk too much


There are many good leaders in today’s society. The organisations they lead perform consistently well over many years on many criteria, showing outstanding creativity, innovation, efficiency and resilience in harshly competitive environments. These are the kinds of leaders that Gaian democracies will need to develop over the coming years.

One of the most interesting examples is Herb Kelleher, founder and Chief Executive of Southwest Airlines based in Houston, Texas. Since 1970, Southwest Airlines has become the fifth-largest US airline in terms of passengers boarded. It has never had a crash. It has never laid off employees. By 1998, the number of employees had multiplied from the original 195 to 23,000. According to research by Dr Reginald Bruce Management:ii

The employees of Southwest enjoy a casual, fun-natured work environment that is celebrated publicly and hard to duplicate. The development of Southwest’s company culture emerged when they adopted a philosophy that they wouldn’t hide anything, not even any of their problems, from their employees.

Herb Kelleher’s leadership style is the opposite of the many autocratic leaders that have thrived in business for centuries. He does not ‘rule’ over his employees but rather, rules with his employees. Kelleher believes that leadership is the job of every employee, not just upper level management.

Kelleher believes that every employee should have the ability to ascertain situations and be able to act on their own decisions. Employees should be able to lead other employees to make decisions.

Kelleher’s describes Southwest Airlines as “an upside-down pyramid. At the bottom, are the upper management personnel and at the top are the front line employees. These front line employees are “the ones that make things happen”. He considers his front line employees the experts in the organization and top management the support help. The heroes are the front line employees. Kelleher’s ability to lead is supported by the leadership offered by all of the employees in the organization.

“…listening to all employee ideas facilitates leadership. Once employees feel that they have been heard by co-workers, they will be more willing to listen to ideas from others.


Why do the Herb Kellehers of this world resist the pressure to conform to the dominant command-and-control school of leadership? The answer is that their own values and core beliefs are sufficiently powerful to make them search for different ways of running the organisations they lead - more powerful than those of their peers. Such leaders are in a minority among the vast mass of politicians, bureaucrats and executives whose values and beliefs faithfully reflect those of the elite consensus.

But, although driven by what Peter Drucker called ‘an ethical imperative’, liberating leaders have a high need for both power and achievement; they are by no means a pushover.iii The difference lies in their commitment to exercising their power for the benefit of the organisation and fellow-employees, rather than for personal aggrandisement. Most of all, they do not just talk about their values, they constantly and consistently demonstrate them in their behaviours and in the decisions they make. In place of the ‘participation exercises’ favoured by command-and-control leaders, liberating leaders develop ‘a culture of dialogue’ in which change comes about through people-power and soft-systems methodologies. The effect on every member of the organisation of being encouraged to think, act and learn is to constantly improve the efficiency and creativity of the organisation as a whole. For the individuals involved there is an end to the frustration and repression that comes from being undervalued and ignored. As Paulo Freire says, through ‘problematizing dialogues’ (or in our terms soft-systems methodologies) all the parties begin to liberate themselves from ignorance, fear, injustice, incompetence and prejudice as they learn together.iv

Soft-systems processes can be roughly equated with Freire’s ‘problematizing dialogues’, because both seek to “associate the entire population with the task of codifying total reality into symbols which can generate critical consciousness and empower them to alter their relationships with nature and social forces”. Thus the men and women who take responsibility for initiating, resourcing, sustaining and legitimating ‘a culture of dialogue’ can fairly be called ‘liberating leaders’.

At present liberating leaders operate almost exclusively in commerce and industry, though there are inspiring exceptions, such as the Workers’ Party in Brazil, and doubtless there are some hidden away in the public services of many other countries. But, if Gaian democracies are to replace the Global Monetocracy, liberating leaders will be needed at every level and in every sector of politics, government, public service, finance, industry and commerce.

First of all, liberating leaders will be needed to initiate and grow the local, national and international political movements that will carry the message of Gaian democracies to every corner of the Global Monetocracy. Liberating leaders will be needed to stand as candidates in local and national elections. The political movements they lead will use the basic components of Gaian democracies to configure themselves so that the process of thinking, acting and learning is as natural as breathing to the members and their supporters.


i Responses to initial discussions at leadership workshops conducted by Roy Madron.

ii See Eun Kim, Fred Liggin, Genita McKinney, Keith Norris & Sonya Owens for Dr. Reginald Bruce Management, ‘Southwest Airlines 25 Years of LUV’.

iii See Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management, Heinemann, London, 1955.

iv See Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, NY, 1970.


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Roy Madron 2008