22 April 2011

Letter from Lhasa, number 219. (Porter-O’Grady 2002): Quantum Leadership. A Textbook of New Leadership

Letter from Lhasa, number 219. (Porter-O’Grady 2002): Quantum Leadership. A Textbook of New Leadership
by Roberto Abraham Scaruffi

Porter-O’Grady, T., and K. Malloch, Quantum Leadership. A Textbook of New Leadership, Aspen Publishers, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, 2002.
(Porter-O’Grady 2002).
Tim Porter-O’Grady
Kathy Malloch

“Leadership cannot be the same. Just as the underpinnings of our society are being radically transformed, so is the leadership necessary to guide people through life. The old models of leadership are no longer adequate to meet the demands of the times. When the world was slower paced and systems theory, complexity theory, and quantum theory were not as well formed or as influential, the nature and role of leadership were different. Even the operational realities of the workplace have changed to the point that work itself requires different skills and a different ethos (...).
“The stable institutions of the 20th century are quickly unraveling as the framework for the new century gets constructed. Not only are the brick-and-mortar empires of the past breaking up, but work is being moved away from institutions altogether. The infrastructure of society is becoming less institutional and more information based, and the architecture of our places of work, service, and business is changing dramatically. Information structures are primarily relational and function horizontally, whereas most of our business structures have functioned vertically. Leading in a horizontal work culture is radically different from leading in a predominantly vertical work culture.”
(Porter-O’Grady 2002, p. 2).

Since information and access to it obey to hierarchical rules, actually the “diffusion” of “information” increases the possibility of manipulation of the lower levels of what is called “society”. In the working places, the diffusion of IT and its tools are not diffusion of “information”. Hierarchies are not weakened from the mass of information they produce and govern. On the contrary, IT is more control on the working force. Employees can be tracked spatially, and their production and productivity may detected in real time from each one of them thanks to the same IT they use. The structure of the working places may seem different because there is or there was a growing IT department. That does not mean that a horizontal culture replaced a different one. Eventually, everything, employees included, is more objectivised, reified. Employees are more appendices of machines they do not control and relatively to which they have no autonomy. Offices are transformed in factories. To the automatization and robotization of the factories corresponded a parallel automatization and robotization of the offices. Command centres are always elsewhere, not even in the IT departments, and stronger than before because their control is faster than before and their will may be, better than before, covered behind some technical imperative.

Leadership may be in places, centres and people different from what appears and eventually reduced, in the faces it uses, to an acting stage. Or these two functions, real leadership and the acting stage, may be occasionally covered from the same person or persons. Politicians and institutional leaders are a good example of that. Companies are not necessarily different, for what concerns this aspect.

An open question is the real competence of the large majority or of the nearly totality of “leaders”. Since information is currently manipulated, and since the manipulators are “specialists” who are not leaders and the leaders are generally victims of their same propaganda (as well as academic institutions where the social sciences are reduced to agit-prop), leaders or “leaders” decide according to disinformation mixed with stereotyped and idiosyncrasies, in addition to the usual lobbing and corruption from inevitably myopic private and bureaucratic interests. For example, how the two main Empires [the British and the U.S.] are led, and the other ones and their “provinces” idem, is public... ...Look at them! “Leaders” and their electors and interests groups are really anything above the level of dangerous psychopaths and criminals? Vast resources and energies are wasted  in destruction.

The web, internet, has having a great impact on publishing, advertising, education, diffusion and access of certain information, communications, interactions etc. However, it has not changed and it is not changing the command hierarchies.   

It is a mystification to declare that “the worker is increasingly in control.” IT changes the working places, not an inexistent workers’ power.

The whole book is impressionistic, with claimed scientific concept not understood, arbitrarily used and mechanically transposed to realities they cannot fit. See, for instance, all the deliria on fractals. The same claimed order out from chaos is, eventually, a perfect example that however one may try to disassemble an organization, either everything disintegrate or it recreates hierarchies for surviving.

A book on leadership, claiming that there is a reality of workers’ power where hierarchies are senseless, is a mystification for other purposes. They say that and they deny that: “Change moves from the center of a system to all other parts, influencing everything else in the system.(Porter-O’Grady 2002, p. 67).

This book, actually centred in many parts on the health sector, seems to imagine academic or para-academic researchers being at the same time leaders. A leader, overall in the contemporary world, is more the manager of a “leadership office”. “Leadership offices” are sometimes very broad and costly structures generally assuming the real decision or decisively influencing them. Since bureaucracies tend to love deresponsibilization, finally they follow standard routines so that eventual failures may be attributed to routines instead of to people. What “the leader” puts is his/her face. Do you think that a Reagan or an Obama knew and know anything of what they were and are talking about? Do you think other leaders at other levels and in different contexts are different? A refined intellectual would probably disdain to be a leader. A leader is too busy to be a leader for being a real refined intellectual. If he/she was or is a refined intellectual, he/she has to forget of have being or of being such.

Porter-O’Grady, T., and K. Malloch, Quantum Leadership. A Textbook of New Leadership, Aspen Publishers, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, 2002.