I discovered one of the most generous and well-intentioned leaders I have ever known while consulting with a telecommunications company in Tel Aviv. This man sincerely wanted his people to feel empowered to do their job and to work together as a team. He spent a lot of money giving them the training and tools they would need to be more proactive and cooperative at work. He also genuinely wanted their honest feedback about his effectiveness as a leader. Yet he was still the boss, and while he wanted their input, he retained control over decision making. So, even though he sought their honest and genuine communication, they told him what they thought he wanted to hear: pleasant lies. And even though he wanted them to take initiative and be proactive, they remained dependent and merely compliant to the established procedures of the hierarchic , rank-based organization. The irony here is obvious, yet this type of misunderstanding is the norm where categories of "leader" and "follower" exist. With rank-based thinking, a gap grows between the decision maker at the top and reality at the front line, no matter how genuine and sincere the leader.
Collaboration and consensus building, not command and control, are the most effective strategies for increasing productivity, decreasing costs, promoting creative problem solving, and improving quality in organizations. Yet collaboration and consensus building are difficult when the organization is weighted down with rank-based thinking. There have been many excellent new ideas in management thinking over the past two decades, but I believe their true value has been minimized by the absence of peer-based relationships. Only in the space of peer-based thinking can the important disciplines, habits, and emotional intelligence come to full maturity.