“… in order to organize effort toward a common goal, which is what organizations are all about, people from top to bottom need to give much of their attention to maintaining control, consistency, and predictability.”
At first glance, this appears to be a fine call for leadership …
Many school-trained and experienced leaders and managers would read this and say “Well, yeah …”.
However, Peter Block calls this control-centered and top-down leadership “patriarchy” and this is not a good thing. Patriarchy stems from the idea that control and command need to come from the top and the manager’s role is to make sure that everyone buys into and supports whatever is rolling downhill.
This has been the managerial mindset for much of the last hundred years, but patriarchy simply does not work and Block provides ample evidence why this is so.
Block suggests an alternative to the patriarchal structure … “Partnership”
“…partnership confronts people with their freedom, and out of this comes chosen accountability.”
We might know this alternative by some other names, such as “empowerment” or “engagement”. Call it what you like, Block’s vision for true partnership is nothing less than revolutionary, to those who have only known the patriarchal style of work.
Block has four requirements for true partnership. See if these resonate with you:
1) “Each partner has to struggle with defining purpose and then engage in dialogue with others about what they are trying to create.
2) “Partners each have a right to say no.”
3) “Each person is responsible for outcomes and the current situation.”
4) “Absolute honesty …”
I could write pages about the implications and questions raised by each of these requirements for our modern workplace.
As a quick example, how do you create an environment for absolute honesty while the organization is still hierarchical and based on authority and rewards/punishments?
The short answer is “You don’t. You change the organization.” Now we are really beginning to grasp the full force of Block’s ideas. This is serious change stuff here, folks.
The idea of partnership, rather than patriarchy, fits nicely into and enhances Block’s primary focus on stewardship and “service over self-interest”. Stewardship, as described by Block, includes four requirements for service:
1) A true balance of power, illustrated by decision-making through all levels.
2) Commitment to the larger community by all.
3) Purpose and culture are formed by all.
4) A “balanced and equitable distribution of rewards”.
To get the full import, you need to read “Stewardship”. It’s available now and is definitely worth your time and your money, especially if these ideas about how to work to serve appeal to you.
As I slowly move through this book, I am repeatedly impressed with the ideas Block puts forward …
Not that others are not saying the same things, because they are. I am impressed because this is a reissue of his ideas from twenty years ago. Why didn’t we listen then and what might stop us from listening now?
The answer to that question has to be “ourselves”. Our own sense of importance as leaders and our desire to control, manage, and decide. Our hubris about the difference between those of us who are leaders and those of us who are not.
Let’s see if we can fix that this time around …
You’ll be hearing more about stewardship later this week.
Into a good book with ideas that lift my spirit in the Heartland ….
Peter Block is a global bestselling author and consultant. His work is about empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Peter to build the skills outlined in his books. His bestselling book, Stewardship has just been re-released in a 20th Anniversary, Revised and Extended Edition with a forward by Steven Piersanti.
- Stewardship is A Dangerous Idea … (strategiclearner.wordpress.com)