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mark ragan

Jim and Marc,

Here's the problem with so-called "command and control" styles:

They depend for their existence on command-and-control communication. If you can't control what people see and hear, you're going to have a tough time controlling what they do.

This is why Marc is right in questioning the future of the John Wayne School of Management.

We are increasingly living in a workplace dominated by underground information sources, otherwise know as "social media."

If employees don't get the information they need from the C-suite, they'll go looking for it somwehere else. Worse yet, they'll create their own information network on Facebook or YouTube.

So while Jim is right that we're not there yet, Marc is correct in thinking that the world is moving toward the "consensual world of generation Y."

Jim, I do agree that one person does have to make the final decision, but that decision will increasingly "bubble up" from below.

Mark Ragan


Fascinating to me is the implication from Jim that "thus it was, so it always shall be."

It's pretty clear that the "C-suites" of most organisations are already failing to keep up with the challenge of being "sole leader" of their organisations. We're seeing more and more details being missed by the CEOs, but fortunately we haven't had too many catastrophes yet.

We're reaching the limits of what a single person can process at a time. We know this, but instead of developing new ways to deal with it, some people prefer to take refuge in machismo and the "skill of the CEO craftsman," some few individuals who (like Federer or Tiger Woods) have an extraordinary talent for their role.

Of course, we can compare the reliability and quality of the best of the handmade era Rolls Royces to a "quality system" product like a modern Toyota. Thus we can see that the future is developing systems of leadership that do not rely on the innate talent of a "corporate Tiger Woods" but on ways of combining the talents of teams. This has been the story of every other part of industrial production, I've not seen any evidence that the CxO office is so different to be exempt to such trends.

Will this mean the end of "Command and Control"? Not really, there will remain hierarchies of formal power and informal influence, especially in day to day working, but it will change the role of leaders and by the nature of replacing individuals with systems and teams, reduce their power. Which won't be popular with Jim's clients, as they would be the one's having to let go of some of their power. So don't expect enthusiasm from them any time soon.

Artie Lange

Verrry interesting!

Marc Wright

I call it Scotsman's kilts syndrome. When the C Suite get together they all admire their wonderful kilts - but the view from below is not nearly so attractive.

Kevin Keohane

Marc, I think you've absolutely hit the nail on the head with one comment that I've been banging on about for years now: the fact that most internal communicators wouldn't know Kotter or Collins from the proverbial bar of soap.

Whether command and control or pie-in-the-sky-total-democratisation-of-the-company is your particular cup of tea, in either case internal communicators have to pullt heir heads out tactical technician mode and start thinking like business managers requiring a cross-functional skillset ...

Dan Gray

It's interesting that Jim should bring up the point on followership development, and then cite Kotter.

Personally, that's where I'd be throwing Hersey & Blanchard and Goleman's situational leadership models into the mix.

Let's be clear - just because the C-suite has ultimate decision-making responsibility, that doesn't automatically dictate a command and control style. The act of taking decisions and the manner in which they are reached are two different things.

We need to lose the notion that we need "larger than life", command and control leaders of the likes of Jack Welch in order to have meaningful sustained change.

More recent thinking (e.g. Morgan, Huy, Khurana) actually places competent managers at the heart of effective change and suggests (rightly in my view) that leadership exists at all levels of organisations.

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