To grasp the contemporary issue and to meet its challenge calls for collective effort. It is not the individual but the group that transforms culture. ”Bernard Lonergan
I have had the opportunity over the past seven years to travel to many different parts of the world talking to people about organizations. Whether it was civil servants in Washington, software programmers in London or Germany, telephone company employees in Israel, or undergraduate or graduate college students from all continents and many different countries , the vast majority have demonstrated their desire to make life in organizations meaningful, joyful , and prosperous. From the management executive to the frontline worker, these people possess the talent, competence, and motivation to make their organizations work. And yet, most organizations fail to live up to their expectations and fail to realize their potential.
In these conversations, I have observed the common barriers that block genuine organizational relationships and meaningful, dignified work. Individually, people possess the same basic values and desires, yet when they come together in organizations they become divided and opposed by these artificial barriers. Sadly, most of us make assumptions about our place and role in organizations that limit our and others' genuine opportunities for growth and development. In general, these assumptions involve the significance we place on leadership and the privileges we bestow on our leaders ”frequently to the detriment of others in the organization. I call these beliefs, collectively, the myth of leadership.
Many people use the terms leader and leadership when trying to convey a sense of vision, of greater responsibility, of ownership over results, as well as greater productivity and more cohesive teamwork. What people often don't realize is that this concept and practice of leadership actually robs many individuals in organizations of the opportunity to contribute and share in these elements of organizational success. The purpose of this book is to challenge this myth of leadership and to introduce a model of organization that is fundamentally different from today's model of rank-based organization. I propose a radical new way of organizing and managing work and doing business ” especially in the way people work together. The model makes the case for the end of leadership as we commonly know it ”that is, rank-based management ”and introduces a method for developing an organization into a true society of peers. I call this model the peer-based organization.
The peer-based organization is much more in harmony with organizational dynamics and the ever-increasing complexity of the business environment ”as well as with our human aspirations, our basic needs and desires. It offers organizations a more efficient way to organize business and work relationships in a time of turbulent markets. It empowers employees to be more creative and gives them the motivation to think and act like owners . My intent is not based on morality or ethics; it is strategic ”a peer-based organization will have competitive advantage over its rivals. It will be more successful. And yet it will also achieve the ethical goal of rehumanizing business and organizational life.
Today's corporate managers have been educated about the importance of teams and of finding new ways to lead that reject command-and-control managing. This book provides a methodology for putting those concepts into practice. Presented here are the assumptions, logic, and practices of both rank-based and peer-based organizational management and a template for transforming an organization from the former to the latter.
With the advent of the Internet and the World-Wide Web, I have been able to communicate with people all around the world who are expressing similar beliefs about and hopes for the project of creating peer-based organizations. A small number of people working toward the same goal in many different places and situations can begin to witness their small actions being amplified until they create a whole new understanding and a legacy of healthy , caring, more profitable organizations. I hope this book will move us in that direction, making the case that successful companies of the future will be leaderless, that is, peer-based, organizations.