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hugh macleod

I once worked for a rather dreadful, but well known and respected company.

As a young trooper in the trenches, I really didn't give a damn what my peers thought. I just cared what my bosses thought. And I think most of the troopers felt similarly.

Somebody more clued-up in mangement than me please answer me this: would that be regarded as a classic bad sign for the company?


Sounds like they trained you well those top-to-bottom commanders :)


I wonder if part of the question is whether accountability can be re-engineered, dehierarchicalized.

We must remember that much of traditional command and control organization is about accountability to shareholders with the CEO and/or Chairman of the Board as the accountability bridge.


Mark, good point that. I would suggest that 'accountability' in its current organisational form is yet another result, or tool, of hierarchies.

Just like accounts as we know them, a snapshot of reality as reality is not easy to see or fathom in a rigid opaque structure.

If reality was easier to see for the outsiders, say shareholders: If you own a small restaurant, you spend every evening there, you know all six employees and you're there seeing everything. Then I suspect 'accountability' would not be a structured issue, rather a natural thing that all can see, you and everybody else would know immediately if somebody did not function or deliver.

Accountability would of course still be there, but like I am accountable for any action I take on the street, in a shop, as I blog, through transparency immediate and global instead of rigidly employee to boss, to next boss up, to CEO etc.


I'd like to see more transparency too. But at the same time, companies rely on the obfuscatory nature of quarterly and annual reports to hide relatively important strategic and operational details. On this basis 100% transparency probably isn't tenable. I think shareholders would rightly go apoplectic if a company they owned disclosed *everything*.

Transparency within a company is where the real vig is and is what I think you are really talking about. I too have spent years working on software to bring pan-organization transparency to the strategic management and business development functions. In the Energy industry where my focus is, companies are slowly waking up to the benefits and opportunities.


Mark, I agree that the level of transparency vis-a-vis the outside world is a tricky one given a competetive mindset with all its tactical and strategic issues one would like to keep mum about.

At the same time one single fact remains: Transparency equals trust.
And trust is what makes a company exist - no trust, no customer, no investor, no place in society.

Will there be a trade-off between need-to-keep tactics under wraps and trust?
I would start the thought experiment with complete transparency, then see how tactics could be implemented within that reality. Possible? I beleive so.


Leadership vs. management

I think that the above statement sets up an expectation that is fallacious in the context of the modern company/organisation.

Managment and leadership are not antagonistic but two sides of the same coin.

Hierarchies are necessary to get the job done – this is what most companies/organisations are there to do – do the job. In this context, ‘the leader’ is the manager that ensures correct process, meeting deadlines, milestones etc.

In a long-term view – the hierarchy is stifling, because the visionary leader now needs to reinvent the way that one does business.

However - and this is a big however.

Regardless of the freedom of the vision – there must be processes in place that deliver that vision into tangible results. otherwise it’s all pipedreams - And this requires a hierarchy driven leadership.

To my mind - this is not paradoxical.

You essentially have two systems – two mental models that need to work side by side.

The hierarchical model - delivering the products/widgets/services to the customer as the customer expects: on time and in spec.

And the freedom/anarchy model – that brings in fresh ideas/products system etc.

The hierarchy - as the vehicle of reality – should A. check that the anarchic process has delivered something of value and not ‘toxic/poisonous' to the organisation and B. implement.


Philip, appreciate your points there, please allow me a couple of comments-to-comment :-)

"Management and leadership are not antagonistic but two sides of the same coin."
Using the definition of the two, the question would then be: Are "showing the way" and "directing and controlling" antagonistic?
Yes, I think so - it requires two opposite mindsets and talents, even on the recieving end. But as you have proven, it certainly is debatable! Funny enough I think the answer, or rather good-new-set of arguments could be found in child psychology / pedagogics as it seems that science has gotten further than management theory (no inherent conflict for the practioneers there!).
I think you will find that any parent knows what works better even if we all all too often fall back into the "management role" being less of the good role model / leader :-)

And you're absolutely right that today the hierarchy is required to hold the processes together. That is for me the main purpose of that command-structure.
Question is then; are there any alternatives?
No, not presently, but yes, there is if we want - IT is perfect if not immensely better positioned to deliver and structure any process. If used right.
And therein lies the crux - most if not all current software is based on the hierarchy-model thus not actually aimed at taking over some of the tasks of the hierarchy, rather support it as it is!
So for me it would depend on breaking the mold of how enterprise software is architected, design it to take over some of the hierarchy tasks. Then the discussion would be simpler :-)


Consider both conditions as "free-body" diagrams.
I tend to view these two models not as "org-charts" or venn-diagrams, but as three-dimensional tensile/compressive structures kept in balance by the application of energy. (which may be a more realistic business model than 2-dimensional depictions)
In the case of typical organizational hierarchies as practiced by corporate America, they tend to consume more energy than they produce in order to maintain their structures and the directed cash-flow to stockholders.
Evidence the cash compensation of boards, ceo's, etc.

Leaders on the other hand, tend to impart a special energy into the organization which serves to catalyze additional reinforcing structure and motility, . . .
Building faith in the relationships and business concepts, reinforcing the customers' participation, Sort of a cascading effect much like coherent light from a laser or electrons jumping around to higher energy levels.
Sig may just have discovered a new level of business dynamism here, . . . I like it-

nasir tukur

I want to have full discussion on the similaries and dissimilaries and manager and leader.


Nasir, you're most welcome to throw yourself at it with some suggested similarities / differences :)

Actually if you read between the lines in this post you might find that I say there are no similarities... they're two entirely different animals that cannot even live under the same hat.

Surely a good leader can do some managing, and perhaps a good manager can show some glimpses of leadership - but for one to thrive the other have to be absent.

Without much guess-work I'm sure you'll see that my view is that leadership is important while managing is a makeshift solution and thus expandable given some practical alternative to deliver and implement the Business Model.

Jishanth Bhaskaran

my view is that all managers can be a good leader as they have rigid managing function as a process.
But one can say that all leaders cannot be managers as they on deals will leading group with different leadership styles, they may not follow the functions of management.

Stephen Doyne

You can call yourself a leader and you can call yourself a manager... but if you can't actually manage anything, it's just a name and if you turn around and nobody's following, you're not a leader.

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