Leadership "Teams" LO13082

Edwin Brenegar III (brenegar@bulldog.unca.edu)
Tue, 01 Apr 1997 07:27:49 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO13071 --

TO: Terry Deems on empowerment, community, etc.

I'm glad that you have brought this thread back up because I too see that
community is a key. But just one key.

I think one aspect of community which distinguishes it from the empowered
teams concept is that the parties or members involved have a great sense
of commitment to the organization because it is a community. What do I
mean by this?

In an ideal world, it would be marvelous for workers to be loyal because
of the ideals or vision of the organization. In reality, people often
associate with business organizations as a way of achieving personal or
individual goals, financial well-being, use of knowledge and skills,
location appropriate for family considerations, and many more. And at it
is most basic level, paycheck and recognition are what many workers are
expecting, because they have learned that is about it. When the
organization has become a community who share responsibilities and
genuinely care for each other, then the individual's person goals are
placed in a context which are integral to the larger community's goals.

If a business or organization of any type is organized as a community, the
responsibilities of operating are shared. Each person has a wider set of
responsibilities than traditionally understood which links to the
community. In a manufacturing facility close by where I live, line
workers are a part of the team who hire new workers. This may be a
practice which is becoming more wide spread as a way of "empowering" or
building a greater sense of shared responsibility for both the outcome of
their work, but also the conditions of work. And this can be done in a
wide variety of contexts. A friend who is a high school principal in Ohio
as a group of students who interview all prospect teachers, and if they
don't pass that group, they don't pass. Here students are deciding the
type of teacher from whom they'd like to learn.

In order for community to happen, it requires empower at one level. It
requires a different approach to leadership. It requires a different way
of looking at the organizational structure. At the basic level, it
requires leadership who is willing to relinquish control, not
accountability, but control. But it cannot remain at that level. It
requires people who are willing to take up that responsibility, with its
necessary accountability and work together as a team. I think that is is
where many organizations are right now. They have moved from the old
top-down systems, to a self-directed work teams system. But have not
moved to an organization as community, because of several factors.

1. Models or examples of community in their communities. Ask people
whether they want to replicate the type and quality of community life in
their town in their work place? IMHO, at the end of the this century, we
are finding that radical individualism doesn't provide a basis for
community, civic health and progress or individual fulfillment. But we
must pass through the exhaustion of this mindset in order to find that
community is fundamental to peace, security, and prosperity.

2. Leadership. Who is training organization heads as leaders of
communities? Look at the books in the bookstore on leadership. How many
see leadership as more than a set of technical practices? How many place
organizational leadership in the context of societal leadership? How many
schools do this?

I believe part of this problem is that we still think of leadership as
Thomas Carlyle described as a heroic individual figure leading the masses
forward. If that leadership ever worked on a large scale, it was because
of heroic figures. But realistically, most of us are not heroic,
charismatic people. We are more earnest, hard-working, ambitious persons
"hoping" to make a difference. When the community mindset becomes the
norm in an organization, then you have a teams of leaders whose collective
impact is leadership. And that impact is beyond the numbers to how people
relate to work, persons, and organizational life.

3. Resistence to change. This is old news I realize. But it is still
news. Why? I think because we have it in our minds that status quo and
equilibrium is normal, and because change requires more of us. It is a
problem of perspective and expectation for our lives. I think that
because work has been severed from the community ideal, that it has become
primarily a means toward realizing individual goals, that we want to
achieve that status quo point as quickly as possible. It has also become
a commodity which can be bartered, sold, or extinguished.

I recently heard of a man who had been with a national bank in their local
mortgage loan office for 20 years. Mid-week recently, he was told that
they were closing the office the following Monday, not relocating him, but
just letting him go. That is change in which it is tough to be prepared.
Yet he will fall back upon the resources he has, which are the community
of relationships in the banking industry and the town to find work, and
eventually he will. But he will not be any more likely to embrace change
because of his experience.

Finally, I think that we have discover community which is not focused upon
individual fulfillment, but rather on how all persons can participate and
benefit. I don't believe it is denying individualility, because the
richness of community is built upon the richness of individual diversity.
It is a matter of balance.

Terry, thanks for provoking these thoughts,this early morning.

Ed Brenegar
Leadership Resources
Hendersonville, NC 298791
704/693-0720 voice/fax


Edwin Brenegar III <brenegar@bulldog.unca.edu>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>