LEADERSHIP, RESILIENCE AND OSSIFICATION
To be a leader of any group, organization or movement of a significant size is to be in a position at the top, out in front and ahead of the curve. Leaders have their own perspective - they see farther, beyond the horizon and think outside the box. When this visionary perspective
is wedded to the ability to persuade and harnessed to ambition and persistence, there exists a leader who can move mountains. Real leaders are change agents
The intrinsic disadvantage of leadership is the tendency toward isolation. As leaders acquire followers dedicated to helping the leader make the vision a reality, their very dedication causes a number of distortions to be introduced into the nascent system that in time may begin to increasingly affect the leader's own perception of reality - followers and, in particular, bureaucracies, create " noise"
as a byproduct of their positive functions as well as from operating from the basis of a different position and perspective. Some examples.
: Ideologically charged organizations are prone to pre-screen and self-censor the information flow on a conscious and unconscious level to fit the values propagated by the movement.
2. Status anxiety
: As organizations become larger and more complex they tend to lose their early, collegial or informal character and begin a process of social stratification
by creating an administrative hierarchy. Status in the organization provides an incentive for intriguing, office politics, rivalries, infighting and a host of behaviors which distort information flows.
: The need to make the organization efficient, predictable and reliable leads to a standardization and uniformity of procedures within the organization. The cost of this efficiency is passive resistance to change on the part of the bureaucrats - partly because the prodedures are themselves a cognitive Frame and partly out of sloth and a preference for the easy and familiar over the hard, untried or new.
There are many other potential distortions and when taken to an extreme, these byproducts help produce such obvious irrationalities as "cherry-picking
", "stovepiping", magical thinking
" and "group think
" that sabotage effective leadership and isolate the organization from reality. Their OODA loop
is thoroughly corrupted to the point that the existence of a problem in the collective cognitive pattern may not even be recognized (or if suggested, rejected with great hostility). A classic historical example of this phenomena would be the Politburo of the Soviet Union which deliberated in grand, self-imposed, isolation
. Such a system, it may be fairly said, was not resilient but ossified. Rigid, frozen and hard but also brittle.
Ossified systems cannot adapt to change because they do not produce leaders per se but rather managers and bureaucrats. Managers and bureaucrats are different from leaders in that while they too can become isolated, the nature of their role is invested in the culture of the system they inhabit and its rule-sets and procedures. They are creatures of the status quo and when holding power, rule from the center and seek to extend and enforce the authority of the system. While useful functionaries if kept within limits, when managerial or bureaucratic class preferences dominate an organization, then the organization loses resiliency becoming increasingly unable to adapt creatively to changing conditions.
How do you keep an organization or system resilient
? Some possibilities:Continuous Engagement
: One of the reasons I find
"Development in a Box
" concept of Steve DeAngelis
so intriguing is the real-time connection and adaption link
between the organization and the environment in the "third stage" of DiB. The engagement between institutional memory, rule-sets, self-monitoring and changing conditions does not break or stop. Change becomes part of the institutional culture.Modularity:
While organizations move faster when they are " flatter" you reach a point of diminishing returns with decentralization where the organization becomes amorphous and unable to sustain a concentrated effort or flow of resources. Embedding nodes of hierarchy in a relatively decentralized network - modularity
- allows for greater cohesion and "local' leadership.Continuous Learning
: Not simply " training" but genuine learning should take place as the organization invests in its own members. The aggregate increase in new skill-sets and experiences infuse the organization with new ideas while increasing the parameters of possibilities.Velocity:
Borrowing a term from economics, on average, the people in a complex organization should move positionally at a certain rate. New people should be brought in and old ones given sabbaticals ( recall Continuous Learning) for a time to change their intellectual environment completely. Ideally, the organization would acquire a membership where most could demonstrate at least competency at several disparate critical tasks and excellence in an area of specialization.
The 21st century is shaping up to be the century of the network, the market-state
and the emergence dynamic - leaders who do not cultivate resiliency in this era build upon sand.