In a competitive environment, the motivation and creative ability of
individuals within an organization is often the key to its success. The
challenge of management is to actualize and harness the creative potential
of individuals within the organization. This is true for all high performance
organizations whether firms in a market economy or organizations directly
seeking public welfare. (e.g. NGOs for poverty alleviation). The problem
is that the motivation and creative development of individuals is rooted
in freedom, while the functioning of most organizations is based on power.
This raises the question of the balance between autonomy and control in
the context of management.
Power in sociological theory refers to the ability to induce actions
in others, which are not necessarily in their own perceived interests.
This particular form of power is usually pursued through the coordinated
and systematic actions of an organized group of people. The organization
binds individuals within it to observe specific procedures designed to
achieve organizational goals. (See for example Hayek). The observance
of required behaviour of individuals within an organization is induced
through a set of incentives to comply with commands/procedures (e.g. salary
increase and promotion) and disincentives for violating them (e.g. fines,
demotion or dismissal). In this sense control is essential to the exercise
of power both in terms of those external to the organization on whom power
is exercised and those internal to it, through whom power is exercised.
The problem with this type of organization arises when the achievement
of the organizational objectives involves the imagination, inventive thought
and motivation of its individual members. This is particularly the case
when organizations are engaged in difficult tasks such as profit seeking
firms in cutting edge fields or academic institutions engaged in research,
or NGOs engaged in social mobilization for poverty alleviation.
How can we construct an organization consisting of autonomous individuals
engaged in creative action for organizational goals? Such an organization
would need to pursue power not in the sense of control but in the sense
of human liberation. Its members would be driven not by fear within hierarchic
procedures but would be self-motivated to achieve shared goals. The motivation
of individuals would be sought through the prospect of a share in the
gains of the organization. The commitment to the corporate identity of
the organization would be drawn from the sense that the individual’s
material welfare is linked with achieving overall corporate goals. Equally
important would be the awareness that the organization enables the professional
and creative development of the individual.
Such an organization is not an abstract entity defined by depersonalized
procedures. Rather the organization is constituted by its members and
acquires meaning through their collective functioning. This principle
makes it possible for each individual regardless of her/his specific role
within the organization, to become the unique centre of thought and initiative
while at the same time being in synergistic interaction with the team.
Such an organizational culture when translated into work procedures would
allow periodic individual reflection together with collective reflection,
just as it would enable individual initiative together with collective
effort. Thus, autonomy would become consistent with teamwork, control
replaced by self-motivation and power defined in terms of individual development
in harmony with organizational development.
What then would be the role of a manager in an organization characterized
by self-actualizing, self-motivated individuals pursuing shared goals?
In this context we may draw the distinction between a messianic leader
(See David Cooper) and what can be called a faqirana leader. The messianic
leader/manager/teacher claims to embody the truth. If his followers/subordinates/students
want to become something they can only be his shadows. By contrast, the
faqirana leader/manager/teacher is one who abnegates his own exceptionality
and recognizes each individual as the unique origin of change. Such a
leader enters into a journey with each of her/his ‘followers’,
helps identify their aptitude and potential, and then nurtures their individual
and collective development in the process of articulating and achieving
Just as the respective management approaches of the messianic and faqirana
leaders are quite different, in the same way the organizational design
associated with these approaches would also be quite distinct. The organizational
structure reflecting the messianic approach is hierarchic and restricts
the space for independent thinking. Its work procedures involve issuing
instructions or blindly implementing them. By contrast the organizational
structure associated with the faqirana approach is non-hierarchic, designed
to provide space for thought and action by autonomous individuals in collegial
interaction. Its work procedures instead of being a simple dichotomy between
instructions and compliance are designed for mutually fertilizing dialogues,
action and collective reflection.