Quiet Leadership

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Jon pointed out “Managing Quietly” [Leader to Leader, 12 (Spring 1999): 24-30], one of the few articles by Henry Mintzberg available online. It talks about the fact that the loud, glossy CEOs who become darlings of the business press, do not in fact perform all that well. Quiet leaders, whom you never hear about, do much better. It’s worth a read.

I’ve spent the last two days talking with another professional about the fascist tendencies of Stratified Systems Theory adherents. Some of this is a risk inherent to Elliot Jaques’s theory of Requisite Organization, although not a inevitable result. Some of it comes out of how Jaques presented his work. Some of it comes out of our own need for the idea of Leader.

I think that much of what I’ve read by Jaques is compatible with the idea of the quiet manager. He explicitly states that you do not need charisma to lead an organization or group, to manage. Personality isn’t that important. Size is. In fact, it might not be a stretch to acknowledge (as Jim Collins does about himself) that the manager who needs adulation, who craves attention, that this person suffers from a -T, the psychological issue that is so great that it detracts from the manager’s ability to perform his or her duties.

Americans like the Myth of the Self Made Man, arising naturally out of our development as a nation, where men left Europe for the New World, where they would be freemen, nobles under the law all. If things got too oppressive, go West and make yourself anew. [Thanks to Stan for this idea.] By myth, of course, I mean not that the story has no merit or historical truth but that we script and our lives and rescript our experiences in light of this prinicple.

Jon has mentioned that Mintzberg’s other works are worth reading, especially The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning: Reconceiving Roles for Planning, Plans, Planners. I know that I’m now interested enough to go and read.

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