Schlagwort-Archive: Leadership

The organism – the ideal metaphor for natural order

The original world knowledge was determined by the experiences that humans witnessed in their immediate environment. They were holistic experiences that were not distorted by mental simplifications. Over centuries this perspective was pushed into the background. With the newest insights it appeared that the world is not a machine, a clockwork, but a naturally grown entity that lives by its own, so far hidden rules. Also the economy slowly starts to understand that new approaches are needed. The organism is the ideal metaphor for such a natural order.


The natural order can not be developed, but grows by its own. You can only try to create fertile basic conditions, so that it develops as desired. The following aspects are concerned.

  • Structure
    The organism consists of many, indistinct and strongly exchanging components. This can be cells, organs or other parts of a body. Even if they differ in size, they are on the same level. Biologists or physicians recognize interaction and find starting points to influence. In business similar approaches develop under the heading of Agile organization, Lean management, and subsidiarity. The departure from the actual Taylorism and its breaking down of tasks, authority and responsibility is common to all. Small mobile units, which have full control, are to adapt flexibly to the market requirements. Eventually they adapt like organisms adapt to changing context condition.
  • Format
    An organism grows up and develops over generations special abilities that enable to survive. It uses for this purpose no artificial structures, but interacts spontaneously with its environment. That way also the business areas have to act now. The emphasis goes away from schematic operational sequence, to open, adaptable procedures. Each unit can find and implement its own approach. The cooperation of the enterprise is marked by the fact that all units yearn for a common conception of the future. The exchange of information will create understanding and comprehensibility with the effort of all units that result from the honest needs to communicate and to show interest. Enterprises use words and numbers as information. Organisms use their biochemical messengers.
  • Leadership
    In a flock of birds it is not possible to identify, where the change of direction starts or who it triggers. There seem to be simple, context related rules. In retrospect you can suspect at best, what the triggers might have been. Enterprises, which get involved in such approaches, have difficulties, because they cannot assign the responsibility for the changes. In this context not one, but all provide the triggers and define together the target. Many efforts seem to fall senselessly flat thereby. For today’s bosses this appears like waste. They forget thereby that all involved people learn and cooperate more effectively in the future. A direct steering harms the nature more, than it is useful. In business it sometimes goes against individual interests.
  • Key figures
    The organism shows only few objectively attainable key figures – fever, increased pulse, rapid breathing, and changed metabolism. The remaining indicators are qualitatively – fitness, adaptability, agility, and flexibility. In business are rather less measurable key figures – fluctuation, employee burn-outs, bustle, and degree of workload. Success becomes here visible with the monetary results, after everything is over. Readjusting afterwards is difficult. The early gut feeling is the only thing that you have beforehand. The new economic key figures become more and more similar to those of the organism.
  • Cooperation
    The interaction of an organism can only be shown to a certain extent, since the best description can illustrate only part of the reality. The substantial part remains concealed. And it is clear to everyone that a healthy cooperation makes a body viable. Enterprises that live a really open work culture, receive results in unexpected places. The intrinsic motivation of each participant dynamises meetings. Short work rounds produce increasing value by not wasting the time of others because people are only present for the sake of being part of the meeting. The involved people decide only to join a meeting, if it provides a benefit to them and produces thereby an enormous momentum for all. Exactly, as the organism knows ho to pace its forces, the natural order is following the same principles.
  • Knowledge
    Does the bee swarm know that it is an organism out of many individuals? The bees found their way to share their knowledge. The swarm knows quickly, where the best flowers are to be found. The knowledge exchange takes place quasi automatically. Enterprises with natural order have informal channels that bring quickly the knowledge to the places, where needed. The substantial consequences are that not all know everything and only the really needed information is available. Actually it is perfect to dam the flood of information. The dynamic structure of the organism processes the stimuli even in such a way that over time its structure adapts to the new conditions.

Bottom line: The organism is the ideal metaphor for the natural order, as it is recently introduced in business. The pre-requisites for this open form are the adaptability of growing units, the tolerance for different solutions, the let loose of direct influence by the executives, soft key figures, the ability to co-operate spontaneously and the sharing of the common knowledge without hidden agenda.

The clockwork – the ideal metaphor for technical order

Descartes and the enlightment divided the world into parts as small as possible, in order to examine and understand exactly, how it ticks. This world view is still valid. And until today many people only trust on what they can repeatedly prove. Accordingly enterprises divide work into controllable units. These areas, teams and positions get the tasks, authority and responsibility assigned for a small part of the value chain. Together, all parts represent the whole enterprise – for some people like clockworks. If the smallest part is missing, the clock does not tick any longer. That makes the clockwork an ideal metaphor for technical order.


Human-made structure is based on rules, logic and calculations. The following points clarify this thinking.

  • Structure
    The architecture of a clock is determined by the watchmaker. On various layers the different displays of time, like the respective hours, minutes, seconds, dates or moon phases are implemented through cog wheels of different sizes. The watchmaker recognizes, how it works and in which sequence it can be put apart and be rebuilt by looking at the clockwork.
    In the same way the company consists of different areas. The larger the number of areas, the more layers, groupings and fields exist. Due to the limited number of parts, the most difficult clockwork is easier to get going than an enterprise.
  • Format
    The condition of the cog wheels, the screws and the material determine the quality of the clock. Each part has a purpose. In a company, there are likewise tangible components – e.g. the buildings, the pipes and the machines. Some people even consider the employees as tangible resources. For better grasping the soft aspects of people, they are described with forms that regulate the exchange of information and define a common language. Over time these guidelines shape up to the dense jungle of bureaucracy. The regulations are created, described, published and the application ensured without interruption. The clockwork does not have these soft factors. This makes the clockwork to the ideal description for a flawless enterprise driven by leadership.
  • Leadership
    The small flywheel, the balance wheel, is crucial for the even operation of a clock. Accordingly, it takes people in the enterprise, who take over this role. In a technical order the directions run clearly from top to bottom, from outside to inside. Nothing happens, without the superordinate, super-superordinate approval of the superiors. This creates reliable and smooth operational sequences, but it slows down the flexibility of the employees. They always have to obtain permission initially. As the balance wheel ensures the even running of the clock, the leadership takes care that even with time pressure the corporate procedures run reliably.
  • Key figures
    Well adjusted clocks provide the exact time accurately. Further key figures are the caliber, the energy source or the number of beats per second. Also the technical order uses measurable key figures. The activities have clear measuring points, as long as they are tangible. Thus the decisions can be justified, the employee performance evaluated and different scenarios simulated. With growing digitization also the number of measuring points increases. The new abilities of Big DATA are still able to recognize patterns in the flood of information. Eventually not the quantity is crucial, but the reliability.
  • Collaboration
    The clockwork lives of the immaculate interaction of its parts. As soon as sand slips into the clockwork, it stops. The business cooperation in the technical order is regulated. The farther they are from each other, the rarer are direct contacts. Contrary to the clock, where the cooperation takes place inside, the business depends on informal relations of the employees, who unfold rather outside, in the private environment. Cooperation is made more difficult due to the existence of an area specific, separatist secret language that can hardly or not at all be understood by others. For fans of the technical order the clock represents the ideal state of cooperation.
  • Knowledge
    The wisdom of clockwork consists of its design, the mechanical finesse of its parts as well as, of course, and the time. In the enterprise the knowledge is distributed across all levels and ranges. The superordinate levels have thereby a limited view, while the subordinated levels have a limited operational know-how. The rigid structure limits the available knowledge to what was originally inserted into the organization – learning is for this thinking a wrench in the works.

Bottom line: The clockwork is the ideal metaphor for a technical order, as it coins the economy for centuries. The price for this tangible corporate structure is a large number of layers, an overwhelming bureaucratization, a strictly hierarchical chain of command, easily attainable measuring points, a firmly given cooperation and the insufficient use of knowledge and learning.

Leadership nightmare

If it is sometimes not going in the direction that you desire as a boss, in the first place the others are responsible. We assume that the ideas of the superiors are thoughtful, and meaningful in a consistent and beneficial way. The feedbacks of the colleagues create the impression that it is the right way. For any reason, however, the employees do not move in the desired direction. Actually, a nightmare for the boss.


The nightmare begins not immediately, since one explains oneself the missing momentum with lack of commitment. At a closer look you find three aspects that contribute crucially, that the forces of all unite into a common direction.

  • Expectations
    The expectations of the executives determine, above all, how strongly they are satisfied with the outcomes. Depending on character, they have negative fears or positive hopes. The expectations include the actions that should be done, the results that you eventually hold in your hands, or the consequences that result in the following. The management of expectations is difficult, since rarely, if at all, only a few people take care of documenting them comprehensibly for everybody.
  • Strategy
    The long-term initiatives describe the direction of the enterprise. The individual aspects create the crash barriers for all employees, partners and even the customers. Here you find the vision that offers a conclusive snapshot of the future. It is supported by the mission that supplies the Raison d’être. During the management of everyday tasks the critical success factors, the weighted value disciplines as well as the descriptions of the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities and the risks help. The long-term direction needs clear messages, so that the enterprise builds upon it. The easily understandable and well documented strategy is the steering wheel that gives the enterprise the direction.
  • Activities
    The many actions that are accomplished on all enterprise levels can only be collected and listed with very, very much effort. In larger companies, they understood that this collection is not economical. The efforts of all appear in the common results. It is only important to find the right level of detail for the description of the positions and processes.

A crucial executive task is the controlling and coordination of the interests of all involved people.

It becomes a nightmare, if the three aspects mentioned do not overlap. This minus scenario means that the leadership team formulates their strategy outside of their expectations and nobody accomplishes the expectations or the future picture. The employees make something that does not go into the desired direction. The good news is that the staff orientates themselves on each other and moves them jointly in a common direction. In this case you can forego the leaders, since their contribution does not impact at all.

The plus scenario provides in any case a way out by taking consciously care of the three aspects.

  • This starts with the attitude. Should the employees only do, what they are told? Hopefully not, since otherwise the enterprise moves into a dead end. The creative ideas of the staff are what improve the enterprise. The minimum requirement is that they act into the general direction, however with enough free space for the new things.
  • The same is valid for the expectations of the executive team. A broad positioning increases the opportunities of the company. On the one hand that comes from the different functions of work (e.g. development, production, sales). On the other hand there are the personal interests and the ambitions of the protagonists.
  • The strategy should reflect as clearly as possible the results of the alignment of all involved people.

Bottom line: The executive nightmare that results from missing adjustment can be avoided. Clearly formulated expectations make the conceptions transparent. The sophisticated plan determines the general direction. The employees develop the actual implementation of the plans and realize the new operational sequences, the flat structures and a fruitful culture.

Lonely leaders – soloists without impact

Some managers hamper progress in the enterprise with their avalanche-like excessive desire for action, when they do not pay attention to the feedback of their employees. They always run with new ideas ahead of the staff without completing anything. Half-done initiatives and a large number of demoralized employees remain. The successors have no other choice than to repair the damage – again and again. And this happens although the leaders should have noticed that they are only soloists without impact, if they do not have the support of the staff.


Especially in the areas of service and administration, where no physical products are created, the commitment of the persons employed is the basis for good performances. Results that are difficult to measure, like the relationship with the customers, the appropriate application of resources and the consistent external representation of the corporate values, are critical, if a manager does not consider the ideas of the staff. How can you avoid losing your employees during your day-to-day work?

  • Listening
    Those bosses, who practice active listening within respective meetings (e.g. town halls, round tables), take thereby the foot off the brake. In return they receive the insights and the opinions of the employees, who eventually improve the results and the balance sheet of the boss.
  • Agreeing upon obligation AND freestyle
    Goals create the framework, in which the employees act. In general the targets describe, what the employees have to do. Additionally the goals should also be fixed. It enables the employees to provide additional personal contributions. That way dedication becomes again worthwhile. Beyond that the superiors get additional possible use from the extra abilities of the employees.
  • Service level Agreements (SLAs)
    With external service providers it has paid off to agree upon the deliverables, the response time and the speed with SLAs. The description of the required quality prevents a halfhearted target fulfillment. The thresholds are specified for the particular case to be processed and can be subsequently evaluated for defined periods. In such a way the service level becomes a seizable component of the goal agreement.
  • The open checklist
    Checklists examine the fulfillment of the essential aspects of a task. The task fulfillment becomes as good as the prepared checklist. With the classical checklist you get only a target fulfillment.
    Item 1? Checked off.
    Item 2? Checked off.
    Item 3? Checked off.
    Patient dead.With an open checklist that does not only contain of Yes/No questions, but also asks open key questions (like who, where, when, how), the work to rule is prevented.
    Which deliverables were accomplished?
    What characterizes the customer?
    What did we learn?
    What should we avoid?The customers will notice the difference immediately.
  • Sharing responsibility
    The strongest weapon against inner resignation is the joint definition of the basis of daily work. The employees specify the requirements and goals for the respective period in a joint discussion together with the managers. Self-defined and comprehensible goals are pursued more active by the employees and supply the bosses with a better overview, than abstract, hardly seizable agreements.

Bottom line: Superiors, who do not integrate their employees into their leadership, will have difficulties in the future. They lose the people through

  • their inner resignation,
  • the work to rule and
  • the target fulfillment.

Those leaders harm themselves. In the mid-term nobody wants to work for them. The lonely leader, who believes that he knows and can do everything and does not pay attention to the feedback of the employees, becomes over time nothing else but a soloist without impact.

Real leaders

Even if the society, the economy or the enterprise are blamed for drawbacks, it is always people, who are creating, not necessarily conscious, negative circumstances. Examples are the leaders. The behavior of highly paid superiors is frequently copied by the employees. Since the fish stinks from the head, the negative properties are mainly conveyed.

  • Missing authority of the boss’s results in long-winded decision making.
  • Postponing decisions paralyses progress.
  • Missing goals create contradictory activities.
  • Blindness and deafness to the feedbacks of the employees result in a loss of confidence.

As a consequence, incongruent leadership style undermines the authority and prevents results.


The employees are asked in the course of the introduction of Entrepreneurship to think and act like an enterpriser. At the same time the leadership positions are reduced to simple steps on the career ladders. The actual task of management goes in this case by the board. Employees have to fill out the role of an ‚executive’ faster than ever before, without being in the position to develop the following characteristics.

  • Power
    The takeover of a team leader position suggests that thereby the necessary power and sufficient resources are automatically available. On the one hand the purely formal transfer of power is not enough in times of increasing employee participation, in order to exert influence as well as to get acceptance and commitment from the employees. On the other hand the higher leadership levels keep the control of the planning and the budgets. Top managers decide nowadays the smallest activities and expenditures personally. For middle management only remains the title.
  • Decisiveness
    An important function of bosses it is to seize the take decisions that cannot be decided on the subordinated level. In the scope of responsibility goals should be specified that fit within the superordinate frameworks. Additionally, alternatives have to be selected, the application of resources controlled, social conflicts dissolved as well as the fundamental structure of the job positions and the procedures defined. In order to fill out the role, the executives need decisiveness. This requires decisions that are made timely and conclusive.
  • Goals
    The published plans are the basis for the staff and the other participants. The goals must fit into the big picture, but they should leave enough flexibility for the activities of the employees. Therefore the executives must make the overview available that shows the direction to the operational activities. Leaders are the specialists for the political aspects, the control of the area, the availability of the relevant information and for the control of cooperation.
  • Attentiveness
    The most important ability of the top management is the attention that is used to observe the occurrences – particularly the observation of the relationships between the employees, between employees and customers as well as between employees and suppliers. They provide the basis for the improvement measures of co-operation. Since these social aspects mostly happen on an unconscious, subliminal level, it needs a lot of instinct based on experience.
  • Style
    There is not the one, right style of leadership, but different approaches that depend on the country-specific culture, the role models of the enterprise and the personality of the leader. This might be authoritarian, democratic or liberal leadership approaches and/or any mixture of the three. It is crucial that the selected style is constantly used. The employees receive thereby an example for their orientation.

You can see in large companies more and more that the executives have promising titles, but do not show in everyday business the above characteristics. This explains the search for trainings concerning charisma, acceptance and commitment. They should enforce the self-confidence of the responsible people. Unfortunately decisiveness does not evolve, if decisions are always made on the superior levels. The ever more evolving micro management results at the same time in the fact that subordinated executives do not reflect any more about strategy, goals and activities in their responsibility. Since guidance in its actual sense does not take place, the question about the personal style of leadership will one day not appear any more, since the high-level executive is lowered to the role of a messenger of the superordinate levels.

Bottom line: The middle management mutate into highly paid employees, who

  • do not have the previous authority,
  • actually don’t need decisiveness,
  • have modest room for acting,
  • distribute only insensitively orders and
  • do not unfold a personal style.

In principle, these are good basic conditions in order to create lean structures. Unfortunately the enterprises undermine these approaches, by proclaiming flat structures. At the same time they create hierarchies that subordinate one executive to another of the same level. Formally, there will be fewer levels, than expected. The resulting ‘kings without land’, who, without budget and power, are not allowed to make their own decisions, turn into shadows of real leaders.

The future of leadership

Guidance is one of the oldest roles in societies. And nevertheless executives are continuously looking for the right style of their role. Apart from the tasks and tools of leadership managers are concerned with the following questions.

  1. How much involvement is possible?
  2. How many rules are needed?
  3. How do I distribute tasks, authorities and responsibilities?
  4. How much loyalty do I need? How does it emerge?
  5. How do I promote cooperation?
  6. How to select executives?
  7. How much leadership do we need at all?

Do new systemic concepts like holistic, autonomous units, interconnectedness, participation, and self-organization, pave the way for new, yet not recognizable styles of leadership? How does the future of leadership looks like?


Executives provide goals, organize, decide, evaluate and foster employees by using various tools (e.g. role descriptions, regular communication, performance reviews). They control with it their area, create orientation and take responsibility for the results (You find more about tasks and tools of leadership here:
Without leadership, these aspects have to be developed in the team and consent has to be agreed. Positive examples of self-organizing groups are the agile teams in software development and other creative professions.

Nevertheless, new approaches imply also new answers to the questions of executives.

  1. Involvement results from democratic forms of cooperation, like having a say and participation. These can also be established in connection with hierarchical structures. For a long time, autonomous, self-organizing teams are common practice in the context of bureaucratic structures, like projects, Centers of Competence or Production islands.
  2. Regulations range from chaos to orderliness and from voluntary to mandatory. They are important tools, in order to clarify the desired behavior of the employees. These rules become meaningful with the appropriate level of detail that covers the tension between patronizing and autonomy. The joint agreement of basic guidelines in the governance minimizes the number of regulations.
  3. Task, authority and responsibility (TAR) of a role should be consolidated under one roof. The best example of the distribution of TAR is the subsidiarity principle of the Vatican. It bundles decisions at the point of action. Only if this is no longer possible, the role is established on the next higher level.
  4. The loyalty is an important element of leadership that cannot be directly created. On the one hand, it results from the authoritarian or charismatic attitudes of a leader. On the other hand, it evolves from the indirect stimulation of the commitment with personal, content-wise and formal commitment amplifiers.
  5. Cooperation can be designed in various ways by using the new possibilities of networking and self-organization. The exchange of information can be realized with common intranet sites, discussion groups and blogs. The employees access via mobile PCs or smartphones their necessary data wherever and whenever. The employees meet independently of their whereabout within phone and video conferences.
  6. The selection of executives has an influence on their acceptance. However, democratic approaches like the direct selection or recruiting of leaders by the employees, does not guarantee their effectiveness. Independently of the selection procedure, there will always be some employees, who accept the boss – or not. As you can also see in politics, democratic elections result in a distribution of 51% to 49% – i.e. half of the population does not want the winner.
  7. At the latest, when the number of members of an organization exceeds the magic Dunbar number of 150, we need leadership and an adequate hierarchy. Small organizations, like start-ups, can survive for a certain time without formal structures. We should not to forget that these are also often driven autocratically by a founder.

Bottom line: Like an orchestra will never like to forgo the conductor, we cannot let go the integrating role of leadership in the future. Each undertaking needs the strategic alignment and concluding decisions by executives. The guidance becomes state-of-the-art by using the new possibilities for cooperation.