The Significance of Organizational & Leaderhip Myths

Al GormanOrganizations, Strategy Leave a Comment

Al Gorman

As this sites takes shape I acknowledge first and foremost that it is flattering to have been asked by Forrest to contribute by providing submissions to be published on the site. As I first navigated the site my eye was drawn to the quote that asserts that “people aren’t a resource – they’re people!” And, these people associate themselves with common cultural beliefs about their organizations. They hold interpretations, identifying with others who appear like them within the organization. Within these cultures they create a context for themselves and the organization; one that might be productive to the goals and purposes aspired to by the organization, or one that may be counterproductive. If we are inclined to agree, we then are compelled to consider the significance of leadership in inspiring an inspirational culture.

Requisite organization discusses the significance of hierarchical structure and requisite managerial practices in their association with creating a functional organization that has the potential to reach its full capability. It provides the hardware in terms of structure and systems and is deployed against an existing culture, and sets forth to create an optimal culture that allows the individuals employed and the organization itself to reach full potential capability. We might call this the software that works only in the presence of hardware, or an operating system. The logic is not unlike that associated with, and analogous to, computer technology. Leadership defines culture and leaders are charged with the creation of myths and belief systems. Is life real? Or, do we simply live in an illusion? Our illusion is real for us and the illusion associated with one’s organization becomes reality. Context is decisive! What we think inside of shapes our decisions and our actions, yet we fail to realize that it is all but an illusion.

A recent book that I authored set forth to define answers to the following questions:

“Great people create great companies and great organizations. What makes them great? Why do people work? What do men and women hope to derive from their work and how are their desires compatible and incompatible with the objectives of the companies who employ them? What are human beings capable of and what needs do they have? What prevents people from being effective and delivering the results required not only to meet the objectives of business and shareholders but also what stops them from being effective, personally, from providing and applying their full potential, all that they are capable of, at work.”

Following is an excerpt from the book “Dream Catcher & Mythmaker”:

“Leadership is all about the creation of a myth. Work is a social process and the effectiveness of all of us working for our living has its relationship with the myth the leader has created, or the myth that has been assumed because the leader has failed to create one and we have created it for him or her in the void defined in its absence. Appreciate that we all depend on this myth and the leader is the mythmaker. Leader, manager, or mythmaker, which one is it and how do I gain access to the key to the executive washroom where these myths obviously must get created? How does the executive lavatory itself assist or detract from the myth and what myths evolve in response to what you say and then either do, or fail to do? How proficient was the leader in defining his or her myth to the bankers and investors? And, equally important what will he or she create as a myth for the employees of the organization and how does this myth serve all of his or her other myths? Wouldn’t it be reassuring if we could inspire a single story that served the purpose of the investor, the employee, the community, customers, trade unionists, the board of directors, and government agencies? The same leader often has a different mythology going for each one of these interest groups and more often than not one or more of them are in conflict with the others. Herein lies the source for future problems and the endless myriad that he or she will be attempting to navigate through, gaining and losing credibility and trust with one group at the expense of the other. He or she becomes the plate spinner in the circus running from one to the next just before the momentum and centrifugal force are lost completely sending the plate crashing to the ground. Consider that one has been spun so hard that its virtually taken orbit and created a life of its own and the weary plate spinner at that crucial moment in time will face the uncertain prospect of having all of the plates crash to the ground concurrently or in rapid succession. You wanted to be a great leader so why are you spinning plates?

As preposterous as it sounds many of us are spinning plates and each plate has a name inscribed on it and your task, your great deed to society is to create a myth that ensures that these plates keep spinning, that none of them crash to the ground, that ten spinning in equilibrium become twenty and fifty and hundreds and thousands. Every one of us wants to be entertained by an expert plate spinner and not one who allows all of his or her plates to come crashing down. In each one of us is that child at the circus and your role is to keep us entertained. So the myth is about creating a circus with thousands of plates spinning all in unison, with none crashing to the ground.”

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