Leadership and bureaucracy

Umair Haque is always good value if you want provocative thinking about the state of the world. He’s got some interesting things to say about the myth of leadership for instance:

Leaders don’t lead. How did this particular skillset emerge? Influence counts because the vast, Kafkaesque bureaucracies that managed 20th century prosperity created, in turn, the need for “leaders”: people who could navigate the endlessly twisting politics at the heart of such organizations, and so ensure their survival. But leaders don’t create great organizations — the organization creates the leader. 20th century economics created a canonical model of organization — and “leadership” was built to fit it.

He proposes a different perspective:

Here’s the problem in a nutshell. What leaders “lead” are yesterday’s organizations. But yesterday’s organizations — from carmakers, to investment banks, to the healthcare system, to the energy industry, to the Senate itself — are broken. Today’s biggest human challenge isn’t leading broken organizations slightly better. It’s building better organizations in the first place. It isn’t about leadership: it’s about “buildership”, or what I often refer to as Constructivism.

4 thoughts on “Leadership and bureaucracy

  1. Johnnie Moore

    While I admire Umair for his perspective, I do not see Umair (or many others) providing any practical solution or guidance for leadership that is uniquely different than much of the other leadership “advice” out there.

    I see a vision at the meta-level without any substantial & practial micro-level details. It needs to be put into some real-world context.


    Thanks for your comment Q. I see what you mean and I’m aware that it’s easy for me to blog at this kind of meta-level too. It’s easy to take a topic like leadership, or innovation, and propose a reframe and then there’s the challenge of getting beyond interesting abstractions and doing something different.

  2. Stilgherrian

    And yet, identifying that there is a problem is the first step. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a strong criticism to say that someone writing about the first steps hasn’t yet provided all the rest of them.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.