Bill Drath

On-call faculty
Center for Creative Leadership
One Leadership Place
P.O. Box 26300
Greensboro, NC 27436-6300

Phone: (336) 286-4409

Bill was on the research and training faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership for over thirty years. He is now retired and a member of the on-call faculty at CCL. He was named a Senior Fellow of the Center in 1999.

Over the years working at CCL, Bill pursued the idea that leadership was not best understood as an achievement of the individual mind or psyche, but as a social achievement embedded in mutual relations. The most common conception of leadership (still predominant) as a social influence process in which a leader acts and speaks in ways that inspire and motivate followers is an incomplete idea that fails to account for any number of observed phenomena, including especially the capacity of peers to do the work of leadership without recourse to a single dominant voice.

Think of leadership in terms of its outcomes. Say these are shared agreement on goals (direction), well-organized work (alignment), and willingness to put the collective before the individual (commitment). We might suppose that if these outcomes are realized, leadership is present. All of these outcomes are relational, they all require some level of participation by all members of the collective, regardless of the social processes used to realize them. With this conception as a frame, all leadership is shared leadership.

Bill is the author of The Deep Blue Sea: Rethinking the Source of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2001), a book that explores leadership and its development as a collective, relational process. He also authored or co-authored “Making Common Sense: Leadership as Meaning-Making in a Community of Practice” (Drath & Palus, CCL, 1994); “Putting something in the middle: An approach to dialogue” (Palus & Drath, Reflections — The SoL Journal, 2001); “The use of constructive-developmental theory to advance the understanding of leadership” (McCauley et al., Leadership Quarterly, 2006); “Constructive-developmental coaching” (Drath & Van Velsor, 2006, CCL Handbook of Coaching); and “Direction, alignment, commitment: Toward a more inclusive ontology of leadership” (Drath, et al., Leadership Quarterly, 2008).

He holds an AB in English from the University of Georgia. He was a graduate student in English at Chapel Hill, but lost interest (or something) before writing his dissertation.

He is married (47 years and counting) with a son and twin daughters, a daughter-in-law, two sons-in-law, and a glorious granddaughter.