I ran across a short video by Jay Cross today, in which he states:
"Let's not think of people as learners. Let's think of them as people, and use our opportunities together -- in conversation, in collaboration, online, face to face, whatever -- to be partners in learning...."
"We're brothers and sisters here", he writes in the intro to this clip, "not parents and children".
I couldn't agree more.
If you've ever been in class with me, you've probably heard me talk about how most of us subconsciously see a person in the front of the room, and neat rows of desks where we're sitting, and think: "Oh no, I'm back in high school." I try to defuse this subconscious tendency by making it explicit at the start of class. "You're not here to serve me; I'm here to serve you." It's a servant leadership model that I've been using in the classroom for most of my career in technical training. It also puts most of the responsibility for learning upon the learner. I can't teach anybody anything -- but I'm pretty good at helping them do the learning. "I Karate teach; you Karate learn."
Occasionally, this approach doesn't work. I've had individuals, and sometimes entire classes, that WANT the strong leader to take responsibility for them, to tell them what to do. If that's the culture at the organization, I blend with it and am only occasionally "subversive." But my goal is always the same: to help a group of individuals get what they need from the time we have together.