Despite my disdain for bureaucracies, I’m a firm believer in leadership. So, I could only shake my head when I read a piece of utopian nonsense called, “Imagine a company with no leaders – I mean NO leaders!

I don’t doubt the author is a good guy. And his post starts out promisingly enough:

Information moving up (or down) several layers is twisted and bend [sic] so the initial information suddenly is very different from that in the start.

As a premise for an argument, that’s absolutely valid. And it’s one of the reasons for which I disdain bureaucracies. But I don’t know why people have such difficulties with history and human nature. In this case, the author’s propensity for ignoring history (and rejecting empiricism) resulted in his writing this:

Imagine an organization where the purpose and aims are known to all employees, because the organization is led by its key influencers … who are trusted by their peers, so that make [sic] them the excellent group to drive engagement and alignment … This group will always change, because new employees will stand up as those who are trusted by their peers … a new organizational network analysis is needed at least every year to adjust the group of key influencers.

People who write stuff like that make me wonder what they’ve been watching during their visits here on Planet Earth.

An Order of Anarchy

Such an organization has been imagined. As just one example, William Golding imagined it in 1954. In Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Sam, and Eric shed blood and innocence in the absence of leadership and in their futile, fatal attempt to have their marooned tribe be led by its key influencers … to drive engagement and alignment.

I didn’t imagine it. But I witnessed a manifestation of it, which also cleared up an abiding mystery: Here’s how:

When I was a pup, I played in bands too numerous to recall (hence, my start in college at age 28.) While I didn’t imagine companies without leaders, I did imagine the bass players in all those bands must have resented me. Notwithstanding the fact that bass players are the coolest people in every band, I imagined that, because I played lead guitar and sang, the bass players must surely have begrudged me the spotlight.

Fast forward 30 years: One day, I was in a meeting with a gentleman who was clearly and vocally unhappy with his job. I called him that night. I explained to him that I’d created a business, filed the Articles of Organization with the State of Connecticut, and registered the LLC, only to discover I didn’t have time to do anything with it.

Since what the business offered was something the gentleman and I had discussed at some length, I asked him if he wanted to run it. I told him I’d take a nominal percentage of the business’s revenues for the time, money, and intellectual capital I’d invested in it. The rest would be his. As long as the business stayed in the black, I’d stay out of its way. If it ran red, I’d shut it down

He said no. And I understood bass players.

A Stable Bass

Like most other people, bass players need leaders. They’re comfortable if they can play their lines and work with the drummer to anchor the rhythm section. But they don’t want to drive.

Maybe if there’d been a bass player on the island with Ralph, Piggy, Jack, Simon, Sam, and Eric, things might have turned out differently. At the very least, the bass player would have been able to explain to the boys the necessity of a leader.

If he’d been around the block just once, the bass player would have been able to predict the probability that new employees will stand up as those who are trusted by their peers and that a new organizational network analysis … every year to adjust the group of key influencers will only lead to jealousy, resentment, turf wars, and the sundry other corruptions to which human nature is susceptible. And those who want to be led — who need to be led — will wander aimlessly, chaotically, and sometimes disastrously.

By the way, bass players are so important, some leaders have two*.

Turn it up.

* The two bass players are Jerry Brooks and Gerald Veasely.

Image by GDJ, courtesy of