Reading for Monday, June 22

Here’s an interesting little twist on the whole thing – almost as if Tolstoy read my last post and decided to reply.

Last time, I was saying that in Western society, we are used to following orders and obeying the people at the top.

Tolstoy comes right back at me – okay, let’s assume there is a guy at the top who gives orders.

Two important things to know about orders:

1)  We only judge an order as successful if it was executed successfully. If someone gives an order or a law or a command and nobody obeys it, then what good was it?

2) The person giving the command is almost never the person doing the actions that occur. So therefore, the real power lies with the people who do the actions, not the person giving the command. And especially (as in the hecase of the army), the higher up the chain you go, the less likely that the person giving the commands will actually be involved in carrying them out.

So, if the person giving commands a) may or may not influence history with that command and b) has no hand in carrying it out – in what way can we say that the person at the top is in control?

You know, I’m starting to wonder how this might relate to the business world.  Or the church world, for that matter.

Is it really a matter of having the right visionary at the top, or a hard driver, and everything will work out? Or does it come down to the quality of your staff? There are many management books nowadays devoted to reversing the paradigm of workplaces being run by managers who order their staff around.

Now it’s all about empowering your staff, working with their strengths, getting everyone focused on a common goal.

Isn’t all of this starting to recognise that if you don’t have everybody aligned and moving as a common entity, one person giving orders at the top isn’t going to achieve much?

Hmm . . . will bear thinking about.

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace E2.6 – Giving Commands

  1. That’s a nice parallel you draw there, Matt, between Tolstoy’s example of the army and your own example of modern day business. I think your point is Tolstoy’s point exactly – it’s the people as a whole, not the leaders, who cause things to change. You’re right that good leaders can inspire people to follow them – but, in a sense, that’s really just the same thing … the real greatness of those leaders lies in the fact that they recognised the value of the masses. The good leaders are the ones who tap into the real spirit of the people because they recognise that that’s where the real strength ultimately lies. This is the greatness that Tolstoy ascribed to Kutuzov – his ability to understand and trust the people. I think I may have mentioned this before, but Barry Jones, when he was President of the Australian Labor Party, and when John Howard was elected Liberal Prime Minister, advised him to read War and Peace – telling him that it would make him a better leader. It’s now easy to see why.

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