I recently finished reading Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power: Why Some People Have it–and Others Don’t. I highly recommend it. Pfeffer provides much useful information about leadership and influence building. However, a section toward the end contained the most radical thought I have ever encountered in business literature.
Too frequently to count throughout my career, I have heard the statement: “This isn’t a democracy.” Businesses are not run by consent; they are run by fiat. But is that required?
In a chapter describing the reality of organization politics, Pfeffer postulates: “Maybe… democracy is good not only as a form of government for public entities but also as a way of making better decisions in companies and nonprofits.” What? Running organizations democratically? Ridiculous! Heresy!
This is no touchy-feely book. Pfeffer’s Power is a modern version of Machiavelli’s The Prince filled with examples of those who took or kept power in ways that would not win them any “good citizenship” awards. Nevertheless, Pfeffer cites James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds (another book I highly recommend) in suggesting that effectively engaging a broad number of people in decision making will improve an organization.
“There are only two ways to resolve disagreements about what to do and how to do it–through the imposition of hierarchical authority in which the boss gets to make the decision, or through a more political system in which various interests vie for power, with those with the most power affecting the final choices.”
I would love to see the latter in practice. But, I’m not sure I’d buy stock in the company.
What do you think?