The Future of Business is the Steward Leader working in a natural hierarchy towards the full manifestation of the Source Idea to serve the wellbeing of all.
My work as an Integrity Architect is to ensure that the Pattern Integrity of the Source Idea is made manifest in every domain of your business.
The business-as-usual model that is still taught in the top business schools around the world is the very traditional hierarchical structure.
It is designed from an old model of thinking.
“People need to be managed, told what to do, cannot be trusted, don’t have the skills, are not responsible, do not understand strategy, can’t make big buying decisions”….etc etc etc..yawn…they are talking about people..(which might well include you and me.)
The Boss and the management team are the ones that are across the business, the ones with their reputations on the line, the ones with the most at stake, the ones that get strategy. So they need to play Boss. (Just an FYI, a book that was a best seller back in the 2000’s, Good To Great, studied 11 of the great companies with a 15 year record of being great. Most of them no longer exist. Not sure how good the executive team were at strategy in those companies. But they sure got paid 100x’s times more than the average worker.)
How about we challenge some of these worn out assumptions?
People like you and me are often smart and, given the right environment, can be very responsible, can be trusted, are able to make good decisions, and will become more able to do these things far better with more opportunity and guidance…
We often have much at stake, (Paying our next mortgage bill, feeding kids..) we are generally the ones dealing directly with the customer, so we know what the customer wants, and while we may not be super strategic I am sure that armed with far more information about the company, its state of affairs, and other stakeholder issues, our ability to be strategic might just increase significantly.
The traditional dominator hierarchy is a dinosaur in most cases. It is inefficient, costly, slow, demeaning, and encourages ‘passing-the-blame-down-the-line’ behaviour.
I know very few people who flourish in an dominator hierarchy organisation except of course the executive team. And I know very few people who simply love being Bossed over.
There is another way.
But it is not the way of consensus and flatland, where all hierarchy is striped out.
An organisation built around consensus (pure democracy = one person one vote and we need to get a ‘x’ percentage majority to call the vote) simply does not work in a business environment. It falls into the messy human heap of people pleasing, making poor decisions, taking a very long time to make very poor decisions, stepping over fundamental issues because we are seeking agreement and disagreement is maligned, too much ‘nice’, not enough nasty…
There are alternatives.
One of them is a Natural Hierarchy. Or a Steward Leader Hierarchy.
Here is how this plays.
The Founder/Steward Leader/Stewardship Team have a very clear mandate around the Source Idea (the DNA/purpose) of the business. (See this article where I go into the detail of this. ) They become the guardians of the Source Idea and its Pattern Integrity, plus the values, participation agreements, ethics and moral code.
This is their Prime objective. Stewardship and Guardianship.
Through the design of the organisation, built around mostly autonomous small groups of 10-15 people, and the adherence to clear channels of communication, plus the transparency of the organisation (including cash flow, balance sheet, budget etc) each team becomes fully responsible for itself, hiring new team members, delivering service, designing and making budget, purchase orders, etc. In the process striping out the requirement for HR, Sales and Marketing divisions and such.
There are clear lines of communication, clear agreements around making decisions, and around handling disputes and upset, and each team is asked regularly to submit to the entire team their work objectives and strategy for the coming period, all in alignment with the larger strategy and never wavering from the Pattern Integrity of the Source idea of the business.
Because of the high degree of individual agency within the team community, and the high degree of small team collective decision making within the larger whole team, the design is agile, lean, and fast.
Better yet, it works. (To learn more, read Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux)
The role in this organisational design of the Steward as Leader is as follows.
Their role is now largely oversight and strategic foresight, tuning in to the work flow on the floor, the ecosystem within the organisation, the larger ecosystems in which the organisations conducts its purpose, and the world ecosystem in general. The ability to attend to this well is rare for a traditional leader.
Plus they get to be sure the Pattern Integrity and Source Idea is maintained at all costs. When it is not being adhered to, they step in and play hierarchy. Such as;
‘No, this will not happen. Or No, we will not be adopting this strategy. Or equally, Yes, this is so brilliant I would never have thought of this myself.’
The sign of a really healthy organisation is where the Steward Leader rarely needs to step in. Their role is akin to the sailor steering a yacht on calm seas. Very light touch, infrequently applied with a clear direction, taking advantage of the natural elements.
The Steward Leader has the capacity to steer through the storm, and they know that this capacity is exponentially improved when the entire team is working towards making it through the storm together.
They have more often than not seen the storm coming, because they have had the time to attend to the forecast.
Consensus is permissible and mostly applied within the small teams, but it is not the foundation model. Hierarchy is encouraged, but without the need to dominate.
Photo credit – Stefan Gunnarsson-unsplash