Us vs. Them: Leading for the Org, or for the People?

The following is a comment I wrote in response to someone’s notion that in leadership, you might WANT to put “people first,” but that you really have to put the goals of the organization first.


First, there is a difference between “balance” and “harmony.” The objectives of people, and of organization, might not ever be in true balance.  That means equal weight, equal force, and most important, no tension between the two.  It is DIFFERENCE – NOT being in balance – that creates dynamic tension. That tension is what drives creativity, innovation, and adaptive capacity.  Sometimes the “tones” of the people and the org are in harsh dissonance.  Usually reflecting too much difference between the two.  But, sometimes, even as there is difference between the tones of the people and the org, they produce a sweet harmony of productivity AND satisfaction.

Second, is that this is not some “Impossible Dream.” Rare, yes, but, possible.  How many organizations have achieved this harmony of people and organization? One, for sure.  Maybe two or three.  The one for sure, is Brazil’s Semco.  If you have never read Ricardo Semler’s now 20-year-old book “Maverick,” get it right now.  Read it today. He did it.  Other close examples include W. L. Gore, and Patagonia (see Chouinard’s book “Let My People Go Surfing”).

The challenge is to set core values and operating principles that maintain alignment to mission, while sustaining that “just enough, but not too much” level of difference and positive tension between your people and your org.

Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy 😉

This entry was posted in Adaptive Capacity, Change, Complexity, Continuous Process Improvement, Innovation, Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

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