Whether as a symptom of or as a commentary about the state of affairs of the U.S. economy we hear many (pundits especially) say the middle class is declining… if not disappearing. A growing number of people the state of affairs is quite stormy as they are finding it harder and harder to stay above water, yet for a select few who are smoothly sailing along it has never been better. Continue reading
A recent HBR article (Why companies are so bad at treating employees like people) by Herminia Ibarra speaks to the need to re-invent the workplace if there is to be human development at work. As Ibarra characterizes it, this re-invention requires “reimagining complex organizations so that they are more human and agile.” The implication seems to be that making organizations more human and agile involves solving the “thorny problem of developing people.” Continue reading
Leadership, according to Peter Northouse (2010, p 3), is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. So then is evidence of leadership the achievement of a goal by a group? Does the goal matter? Do the means matter? Continue reading
When most people talk of leadership what they are really speaking to is the highest levels in the management hierarchy. They are talking about the legitimate authority positions in an organization. They speak of leadership as if it was a noun, a name we attribute to a person or position. Continue reading
How do you maximize the performance of an organization?
Wait, wait…don’t tell me!
I went to business school, I know! Continue reading
Many elected public officials formulate legislation favoring those who provide large sums of money to them (in support of their election/re-election) irrespective of the legislation’s impact on the citizens—the collective ‘we’—they are elected to represent. What is the consequence of such action? Essentially there is no consequence! Why? Because those who could take action are reticent to do so since they too benefit from this quid pro quo system. So they cooperate—if not collaborate—with special interest. If lobbying weren’t effective, why else would the number of lobbyist have grown?
There are corporate executives who create and manage an organization that behaves in environmental and/or socially damaging (if not fraudulent) ways. More often than not this way of managing provides the executives and their minions significant material gain and the citizens of the country significant devastation. What is the consequence of such practice? None to very little! Why? Because those who could take action are reluctant to do so since they too benefit from the way things are. So they cooperate keeping things as they are. This is likely why regulating agencies and corporate boards overlook rather than provide oversight.
What’s operative in each? Self-interest maximization; a what’s in it for me orientation. In a socio-economic system that concerns itself primarily if not solely with self-interest—not the collective ‘we’, the interdependence of living systems and society at-large—the resultant quid pro quo arrangements determine the future we all will likely experience. It is no surprise that follow the money often leads investigators toward identifying the puppeteers.
We cooperate with the system—no matter how dysfunctional. In a democracy voting is the primary means for individuals to participate and thus cooperate with the system of government thus ensuring its continuance. In organizations striving to meet the measureable goals cascaded down from the top of the hierarchy is the primary means for individuals to cooperate with the system. A profit making and maximizing system, exclusively for those directing the game, is the order of the day—so fall in line, play the game.
We Can All Hope
So we cooperate while hoping that changing the players directing the game will change the game—hence our obsessive focus on leadership. Or is it we keep the game going thinking that once we get to the top of the hierarchy we will some how change the game. Unfortunately it hasn’t and it likely never will happen!
Hope involves seeing/envisioning a way for things to get better so many have hope for change. Some hope to return to the imagined better times of the past and others imagine a new reality. In either case, people hope that the future will be better than the present. Both are holding steadfast to an imaginary reality and thus not seeking to understand the why of what is. It is the present that is most correlated with the future, yet many seem to run from it.
Game Change Requires Mind Change
Nothing will change unless the system itself is fundamentally changed! You don’t change the game by continuing rolling the dice on your turn; this just keeps the game going. Cooperating with a system ensures its continuance.
We aren’t independent individuals whose sole purpose in life is to amass as much material wealth as we can—bumping into each other as we each strive to have it all for ‘me’. It is not that self-interest is not within our nature it is that self-interest is not the essence of our nature. However those directing things would have us believe that we are at base self-interest seeking because it best serves their self-interest—they benefit most when we all are concerned about what’s in it for me. This keeps people from coming together as we—divide and conquer works most times, but only in the short-term.
I remember (many years ago) being in a meeting where the president of a division of a company I was working for said, “look to your left and look to your right because 1 in 3 people won’t be here next year. “ What’s the message? It is not I want you all to work together, but rather I want each of you to worry about yourself. This president wasn’t seeking to foster an inspired collective we but rather bunch of me’s that could be easily controlled by fear.
I left the company within several months of that meeting. Eventually the division floundered, not because I had left but because the division was never able to actualize the potential among those it employed.
Unfortunately when individuals act out of their self-interest, when there is little to no concern beyond what’s in it for ‘me’—when a sense of caring stops at one’s own skin—then the destruction of either the organization or society (which includes all individuals) is inevitable.
So why is there hope? Could it be that because the absence of hope ushers in despair and so everyone is simply deluding him/her self to avoid feelings of despair? Rather than being hopeful, I suspect we’d all be better off if we got heretical.
Let me begin with a statement from a previous posting:
“When people are given the legitimate authority associated with a position in an organization’s (management) hierarchy, they are also necessarily entrusted with the development of those over whom they have been given formal authority. Sadly some become intoxicated with exercising power over others that they deny and ignore the responsibility for the care and concern of others. Upholding this latter responsibility is in large measure what separates the good leaders from the bad.” Continue reading