A New Way of Not Ruling?
CSR, Sustainability and All the Other Hot topics
I think we can all agree that in recent times there has been much discussion regarding the hottest topics such as CSR, creating and maintaining a sustainable brand, a new corporate culture and so on. There have been even more discussions on how to achieve these goals. I believe that if we ask older generations, especially our grandparents, they have seen these focal points as immense changes from their “ruling era”. These focal points have, and to this day still influence the way in which we conduct or at least try to conduct business. Perhaps especially in the way superiors are supposed to take charge, make decisions and lead the employees. In short, how they are supposed to rule, or how they are not supposed to rule at all.
Leadership Back In the Day
I clearly remember my
grandfather telling me stories about the time when he was the CEO of AEG. There was no nonsense back in his day, no team-building, no “lets-talk-about-our-weaknesses-and-see-how-we-can-improve-ourselves” talk. There were rules, working hours and a hierarchy in which the employees clearly knew their place. It was simply doing the job you were hired for. There was love for the superiors, but there was also a great deal of respect and possibly a greater deal of fear. Authoritarian with a big A is perhaps the best way of describing the former “ruler” of the company.
The Best Serving Company
Tina Monberg, mediator and a leading lecturer, has recently published the book “The Best Serving Company.” The book focuses on how to create a company that can “serve the best” both in terms of revenue, but also in all other categories such as employee satisfaction, growth, creating coherence and togetherness and so forth. In a nutshell, she gives advice on how to create the most sustainable (oh how we all love that word) and profitable company. The book argues that many companies are categorized into so-called “silos”, meaning that they consist of isolated departments that may work amazingly well independently, but not so well together, or perhaps do not work together at all.
A New Realization
What we must realize is that a well-functioning company has to work together in all departments. There has to be a coherency, something that can glue together the company and make the machinery work smoothly. It is not sustainable that one unit works superiorly on its own because the division into silos creates a fragmentation.
Yes it is true that the division into silos does generate a form of security and overview, it gives the management an organizational overview and a simpler access to control the assignments that are executed in the different departments.
The division however makes the sharing of knowledge difficult. If the employees in the different departments do not naturally share knowledge, the organization will lose its sustainability in the long run. The mentality that arises in the different departments reduces the efficiency in the overall operation.
A Shift of the Responsibility Level
The biggest question in relation to all of this is perhaps how to make the silos work together? Or even better how to break down the walls and unite them all in one smoothly functioning machinery. The book argues that this development has to start from the top. The management has to take charge and rethink the way in which they exercise leadership. The key is perhaps not to exercise as much leadership and shift the responsibility level downwards. Employees clearly still need some kind of control and guidelines, but they can still be in possession of these without the authoritarian leadership that used to be dominant.
Jan Calzon, Former CEO of SAS: Decentralization
Tina Monberg has interviewed the former SAS CEO, Jan Carlzon. He offers his thoughts on his contemplations and strategies when he was in charge of SAS. He thought it was important to decentralize, create solidarity and a support for the employee who perhaps wasn’t doing so well. Jan Carlzon tells us how he decentralized SAS: “We had to tell the middle managers that we had turned the traditional model upside out, where the middle managers gave instructions based on what the top managers had issued. Now the middle managers role changes to offering a service and support to those who are actually the ones meeting with the customer, the frontline.”
The Management Style Of the Future?
Whether this form of leadership is the management style of the future will possibly remain a question for quite a while longer. The question is furthermore if this model is applicable to all businesses and in all countries. Scandinavia is a leading example of the more “soft” and cooperative management, which may not be the management style that fits all countries. The “to-some-extent” similar western country America and especially the developing BRIC countries would with a high probability not be ready or simply not find this management style adaptable.
It’s a Give and Take Thing
How to create the famous and desirable CSR, a sustainable brand, a dynamic corporate culture and whether or not these elements are desirable in all countries can be food for thought for quite a while. I believe the book provides us with a good insight into a form of “non-leadership” and how to create a company that will serve to the fullest. Perhaps the leaders should strive to leave more management to the employers, but still maintain control and create a management system that allows the leaders to give constant feedback to the employers to always strive for improvement. It’s a give and take thing.