Democracy & the learning organisation LO20641

Doug Merchant (
Fri, 12 Feb 1999 00:19:16 -0500

Replying to LO20632 --

>Much as I believe in my soul and my heart that a "Theory Y" approach to
>management/leadership is the "right" way to run an organisation, the only
>research I ever remember seeing on this issue (I saw this ~30 years ago
>during my MBA, so don't ask for references!) concluded that both X and Y
>approaches could and did work equally well. All of my experience since
>reading that conclusion confirms this. True leaders are leaders. Some do
>it by hugging you, some do it by kicking you in the ass, some even do
>both. In (not so pleasant) fact, if you look at today's "high performing"
>companies, Theory X leadership is probably in the ascendant. Bill Gates?
>Jack Welch? Percy Barnevik? Larry Ellison? Not exactly Douglas
>McGregor's sort of guys.

It has been a long since I've read McGregor. While I seem to remember
McGregor first articulated Theory Y as an alternative to Theory X, I
thought his primary theme was the need to explicitly state the assumptions
about human nature that inform our management decisions. (As far as
Democratic Theory, I remember Thomas Hobbes assumptions about human nature
sounding like Theory X while Locke sounded a little more like Theory Y).

When we look at Democracy to inform and expand our thinking about the
Learning Organization, I think we miss the point as long as we stay at the
individual level of the system. The important issues for Democracy and
Learning Organizations are the organizational governance mechanisms at
play. For example, Do we try to identify, select and develop future
leaders of the business? or Do we want to build organizations with the
capacity to embrace "good" leadership, resist "bad" leadership, and "know"
the difference?

Doug Merchant
Currently On Career Sabbatical


"Doug Merchant" <>

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