The shortcomings of command-and-control management are becoming ever more apparent. The hierarchy of bosses organized into ranks, with each superior exercising authority over subordinates who do exactly what their boss wants, has long been the dominant form of corporate organization. But recognizing that they are handicapped by their current systems, many companies are now questioning the way they manage themselves. They are striving for greater effectiveness and flexibility to cope with and capitalize on the fast-moving, ever-changing competitive conditions they see just ahead.
I believe that the old command system must be replaced. Fixing it is not good enough. My view is that authority should be replaced by leadership. By that, I don’t mean that a business should be run by a single leader, but that it should be run by a network of leaders positioned right through the organization. Leaders and leadership teams working together will, I suggest, run a business more effectively than a hierarchical, command-and-control structure.
My experience has been that most CEOs will fall between these two extremes. They will be natural learners and eager to try what works. I’m convinced they should expend effort in three areas: learning to listen to people actively with an open mind, demonstrating high-precision truthfulness in all dealings, and becoming unassuming and approachable in behavior. Combined, these basic changes are likely to be so surprising to constituents that they will respond favorably almost immediately. And as the CEO makes these changes, he or she will be able to judge the difficulties that others may have in changing their behavior to become leaders in their turn.