The identity problem in leadership

June 22, 2010 · Filed Under reflections · Comment 

When leadership is present it can not and may not measured because it precedes quantitative factors.

In a hierarchical context this means that leadership, being higher than  quantitative factors, serves as a foundation for these, and of course the higher can never be measured by the lower.

If we look at environments that are set up purely for objectives defined by quantitative measures, leadership may not emerge at all; to understand this we must go back in time way before certain conditions gave birth to modern business, to the middle ages, before the time of Philip IV of France.

When looking at hierarchies before the 1300’s we must be very careful not to project current views (characterized by progressivism, evolutionalism, egalitarianism, pervasive materialism, etc.) into those times.

The principles that today are abstractly described as leadership were dominance and power both being supra individual, most adequately represented by the highest echelons of the organic hierarchy:

- king (active aspect of dominance; analogy to Ghibellins)

- clergy (passive aspect of dominance; analogy to Guelfs)

- nobility (power)

Initially there was a caste above the castes that incorporated both the active and passive qualities and which provided a vantage point of integration for both after they emerged as separate but complementary representatives of the principle of dominance (always intellectual, from another aspect spiritual).

The top two strata dominated power, power dominated matter (as it appeared in the form of goods and services). In addition to military affairs (not in the modern sense of the word of course) nobility also fulfilled juristic functions and in this sense controlled commerce and economics, as well.

Why this long overview of history? Because in today’s business environment we can’t find appropriate examples that may highlight the principles of leadership; having a look at the analogies of dominance and power in the original sense, it’s obvious that economics is positioned below power; from the point of view of profit driven initiatives, neither power nor dominance may be grasped. There are plenty of theories (trait theory is a good example) to provide a substitute, trying to fill the void left in the ABSENCE  of actual leadership.

And now, in context of the above, the identity question.

The identity problem breaks down into two problems:

- awareness problem: the identity is not known

- limitation problem: identity is constrained.

The two problems are related. Here we’ll look only at the awareness problem.

With the dissolution of organic hierarchies awareness declined and the views on identity shifted towards individualism, while the principle of differentiation between individuals disappeared: the undifferentiated mass gained significance and today it usurps the positions of dominance and power with a one-sided view on both, confuses manipulation with influence, is vehemently democratic and since it can’t differentiate between organic and artificial hierarchies it demonizes both.

In such an environment the principle of differentiation is so weak that it no longer provides a foundation for the individual to experience his own identity; to actively, consciously and distinctly experience the self. In lack of an appropriate foundation it happily adjusts to directives whose purpose is to liquidate differentiation.

The sense of purpose, the sense of appropriate style, the awareness of potentials, the power to lift them to the level of actuality, in short: the awareness of the self and the resulting collected, focused energy has  considerably deteriorated.

Next up: the interesting problem of identity as limitation as context for the leadership question.

On sustainability

June 5, 2010 · Filed Under reflections · Comment 

I thought I’d just quote a sentence from Rutilio Sermonti’s work L’uomo, l’ambiente e sé stesso (Man, his environment and himself):

“…I would say that just as agriculture deteriorated when it adopted industrial mentality, the industry may become compatible with a sustainable society if it adopts the mentality of agriculture.”


June 2, 2010 · Filed Under style · Comment 

Recently I saw a b2b company pricing their services like supermarkets price their products.

Would I be more prone to paying $19,999 for marketing services than $20,000? No; I guess I’d think that these people are either joking or insulting me.

I think it’s always insulting when people want to play a well known trick on us. Are they serious? Do they assume that I don’t know the trick or perhaps I happily go roleplay with them? 9.99 is comparable to a used car sales man starting the spiel by: “let me ask you this question, first name”, or the stock broker barking “this company is hot, first name, and right now the price is rock bottom, ya gotta buy now” to a complete stranger on the other end of the continent right after he answered the phone.

On second thought: if this practice is ridiculous in b2b why is it acceptable in retail?

Perfect differentiation

Is it plausible that only one concept exists for each industry? Only one perfect concept that must be actualized? One for automotive, one for aerospace, one for telecommunication, one for IT, etc.

Or perhaps one for each basic function: one for transport, one for communication, one for making (manufacturing), one for design, one for service, etc?

Let’s assume this is actually possible. What would that mean?

It would mean that whoever could “capture” this perfect concept, aligned the company to it and treated it as the company’s purpose, would be able to truly differentiate themselves; even in industries where differentiation is nearly impossible.

What would a near perfect differentiation mean?

It would mean being right: treating people right (customers, employees, other stakeholders), communicating right, growing right, thinking right.

It would mean acting very different (being right is different!), since the context for action is different.

How would it work?

1. the concept would be articulated; the HOW is so interesting, it deserves more space than this

2. based on the articulated concept, the RIGHT strategy would be developed

3. based on the concept and the strategy, the company would be transformed (if it’s not a new company)

Everything we know and do is an alternative to this.