Management & Leadership: A Systemic Perspective
In Leadership & Management:
A Structural Perspective I proposed some thoughts regarding
what happens when typical management and leadership approaches
are applied to a hierarchical organization structure. Having continued
to consider the nature of these two activities I would now like
to offer what I consider to be a systemic perspective. A perspective
which differentiates the two based on the structures they foster
rather than the particular activities they promote.
My contention is that the traditional activity of management,
i.e., planning, organizing, directing, and controlling, is essentially
the management of balancing structures, while leadership, i.e.,
challenge the process, inspire shared vision, enable others to
act, model the way, and encourage the heart is essentially represents
the enabling of reinforcing structures.
Management is an activity which
endeavors to induce resources to migrate something from a current
state to a desired state. This migration might be the development
of a new product, the resolution of a problem, the alteration
of a process, i.e., anything with a defined objective different
from the initial state when the effort was started.
The difficulty that arises with this structure stems from the
fact that the activity is driven by the gap, i.e., the difference
between the desired state and the current state. And, not only
is the activity driven by this gap, so is managements involvement.
As the current state approaches the desired state the gap gets
smaller and smaller. As the gap gets smaller the extent to which
management is motivated to stay involved declines. The end result
is that the the gap's, and management's, promotion of the activity
declines. Management's attention is distracted by other situations
with larger gaps, resources are reassigned to other projects,
and in time the current state tends to drift further and further
from the desired state. This drift continues until the gap gets
large enough to attract someone's attention, and then, probably
in a panic, attention is shifted from some other project making
progress back to this one. And you can probably guess what comes
shortly there after!
I propose that leadership differs
from management in that it fosters the development of a very different
structure for creating results. Leadership promotes the development
of reinforcing structures rather than balancing structures. In
this structure the results produced by the activity promote more
the same activity that produced the initial results. In this way
the focus of activity is driven by the results which simply produces
Where is leadership in this diagram? In the words of Lao Tzu,
"When the sage's work is done the people will say, 'We did
it ourselves.'" The leaders involvement is in the design
and implementation of the structure, not managing the activity
in the structure, so there is no explicit representation of leadership
in the diagram. Leadership is everywhere and nowhere at the same
time. The leaders most valuable contribution once the structure
begins to operate is seeking out potential limits to growth and
then working to dissolve them before they have a chance to hinder
the growth of the results of the structure.
Of course the structure is a not
really as simple as described. The real implication is that the
results actually add to the perceived meaningfulness on the part
of the actors. It is this perceived meaningfulness which represents
intrinsic rewards to the actors and promotes the continued increase
in focused activity necessary to produce greater results. Intrinsic
rewards is very key in the midst of this structure.
If the rewards are extrinsic, i.e.rewards
provided from outside the structure for the results achieved then,
over time, the activity portion of the structure actually splits
to create two separate activities develop. The first activity,
i.e., activity(1), continues to be the appropriate activity to
produce desired results. The second activity, i.e. activity(2),
develops driven directly by the rewards. The actors may be initially
motivated by the rewards, yet in time their desire for the rewards
promotes the actors to produce activity specifically designed
to promote even more rewards. The activity is intended to produce
rewards, not results. Now if this wasn't bad enough, the detrimental
side effect is that activity(2) focused on generating rewards
actually detracts from activity(1) which produces the desired
results. This actually serves to reduce the results over time.
And rewards become the desired results. Quite simply put, "Rewards
create self-limiting and self-destructive structures."
And guess to whom the choice of structure development falls?
theWay of Systems
Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger