A World Without Leaders

“Clouds form and then go away because atmospheric conditions, temperatures, and humidity cause molecules of water to either condense or vaporize.” The natural world around us constantly adapts and responds to what it needs in order to function. Why couldn’t our organizations do this, too? – Chris Rufer (Founder of Morning Star)

To answer the above question, it is simply human nature to fear change. This can be attributed to the survival and preservation instincts developed over thousands of years.

Anything new, any change, is pregnant with the potential to harm.

Getting to trust the new is a time-taking process. This may surely have saved our ancestors many a toothy trouble in the past but what of when our current environment becomes threatening?

Revolution is necessary to subsist and prosper.

Self-Management, however, is not a new fad that has suddenly sprung up.

Its existence can be credited to observation of nature. Nature too is a firm practitioner of Self-Management. And what is older than nature?

At the micro level, ‘you’ yourself are the best testimony of what this sort of management can accomplish. Who manages your daily activities? Or more importantly major life decisions? It is the self that governs us.

Similarly, people are not appointed leaders in self-managed organizations. They simply decide to lead.

Self-managed employees do the things that are worth following and inspire co-workers. Employees feel a sense of responsibility towards their workplace.

They have no bosses and no titles of promotion. The liberty to deliver results for customers provides the employees all the personal incentive they need.

When the communication with customers and co-workers becomes more efficient and decisions lead to desired output, self-management structure is said to be well developed.

PROS                                        CONS

Lower Costs                              Tougher Adjustment

More Collegiality                        Accountability Challenges

Greater Initiative                        Longer Induction

Proactive Employees               Growth Issues

Higher Loyalty

Deeper Expertise

Better Decisions

Increased Flexibility

*As recorded by Gary Hamel

The concept of “self-management” hasn’t quite managed to capture the imagination of our business world yet, because a doubt exists regarding its viability as an organizational structure.

It is the Top-Down Hierarchy that comes to mind when talking about organizational design. The idea of an organization “self-managing” itself is treated as bizarre.

A Traditional Organization – once hailed as a perfect business model – is run within a definite structure. The structure is less definite in case of Self-Management. Both aim for similar things but the means expended differ.

In order to keep up with the variable external economy, most bureaucratic organizations turn even more rigid. Instead of adapting, they fight the change.

The contradictory expectations confuse the employee behavior and affect the output of a Traditional Organization. To face the fluctuating market, they need innovation so they ask of their workers to think ‘out of the box’ but follow the rules within a bolted-down bigger box.

The fear of ‘surrendering control’ prevents some organizations from backing this Management system completely. They take solace by invoking their organizational right of surveillance. This transforms the management into something quite non-functioning and uncomfortable. It kills the same creativity that it demands. The management process is neither here, nor there. It is precariously suspended in the middle. Surveillance simply reeks of distrust and is viewed as such. It creates hostility.

This is a typical example of psychological reactance. When one fears loss of freedom, they will make self-serving decisions to avoid it from happening. If they lose deserved freedom (real or imagined), they will do whatever it takes to recover it, even if it is detrimental to their organization.

‘Traditional Management is grossly inefficient, claims Gary Hamel in the HBR article, “First, Let’s Fire All The Managers.”

In a Traditional Organization, the boundaries enforced on the workers are unyielding. Aggressive Competition and malice routinely raise their ugly heads. The best idea gets lost in the haze of posturing and political games. And, hierarchy beats down creativity.

Self-Management on the other hand, is grounded in the Democratic Design Principle. Everyone is equal and motivated to do better by the organization. Work fulfillment, positive innovative vibe and self-actualization are all rolled into one. Most high-performance work places have been found to embrace change. Just take the example of organizations like Wikipedia or Alcoholics Anonymous to see how Self-Management has proved successful for decades.

Employee Self-Management employs management best practices and aims at improving productivity, which is a much comparable goal to that of any eager organization.


  •  A to-do list

Specify the crucial tasks for developing self-management skills. Use task management software to generate and manage your tasks.

  • Prioritizing Tasks

Rate the tasks by importance, based on current needs and employment requirements.

  • Scheduling Tasks

Set deadlines and timeframes for your tasks.

  • Flexibility

Adapt to the shifting external factors and not be bogged down by problems.

Distinguished authors Jaclyn Jenson and Jana Raver found a positive correlation between autonomy and more positive discretionary acts (organizational citizenship behaviors or OCBs).

When the communication with customers and co-workers becomes more efficient and decisions lead to desired output.

Since the pay offs are so big, companies tend to spend a lot on self-management skills & self-assessment training. The HR department supervises the task or external trainers are hired.

The process also benefits the employee in terms of professional advancement.

The theory of Self-Management can be explained through the major values it implies:

1) There must be no discrimination of power

2) Commitments to each other must be fulfilled

There are other rules as well but these two can change the very foundation of an organization.

The organization makes careful selection of entry-level employee. It takes into account the attitude as much as the potential employee’s skills.

Certain skills reflect and uphold the ideal of Self-Management. These should be willingly adopted by the employees for the model to be a winner.

1. Stress-Resistance

Stress leads to blunders. A stressful situation has the capability of hindering a ability to think rationally and make decisions. When stress overwhelms the employees, this directly affects the productivity of the organization.

Resistance to stress is a key skill that must be mastered by all employees of a self-managed business.

2. Problem Solving

Application of knowledge is a must when it comes to finding a way to cross the hurdles and confront problems. Mental processes need to be well oiled if they are to overcome the toughest challenges. A complete knowledge of facts is used to analyze of the situation, review problems and finally reach an effective solution.

3. Communication

Competent communication of information means that information is shared with the minimalized possible distortion and in the quickest way possible. Self-governed workers understand the value of clearly and timely conveyed information.

4. Time Management

When things are done in a timely fashion, the expected results are more likely to manifest sooner.

5. Memory

Having a good memory is essential so that work can be conducted smoothly and without inviting unnecessary hiccups.

6. Physical Activity

Physical activity will keep most diseases at bay. If the body is in good shape and nervous system is robust, any challenges that arise can be coped with.

Personal effort is as important as the training if not more.

When members are allowed to govern their own work, it is a move that increases the probability of success for the organization as a whole. It raises the chances of greater job satisfaction and better observance of organizational policy.

The resistance to self-management sprouts from the top-heavy management’s dread of losing perks and privileges.

Those who argue against the suitability of the Self-Management system exclaim that they cannot envision a world without managers. To answer simply- It is not a world without leaders for everybody in the enterprise is a leader.

Once this realization sinks in, organizations will welcome self-managing practices with open arms and expectant eyes. The day will come soon when Self-Management will finally supersede Traditional Management.

“You are your own leader. Where are you driving yourself to now? You can’t afford to go wayward! Rise up and break new territories and live life so well.” – Israelmore Ayivor

Designing the Self-Managing Organization by Ronald E. Purser discusses the criteria for a self-managed employee and how the employees can test the efficiency of the Management themselves. Each worker personally organizes self-assessment surveys to confirm whether they have the required skills set.


I can make my own decisions. (0……………………10)

I require close supervision. (0……………………10)

I understand that I should operate within my prescribed limits and boundaries.


I find work provides me with no opportunities for developing or sharing knowledge

and skills. (0……………………10)

Work gives me challenging goals that engage my attention. (-5….0….+5)

I always get a timely feedback and the opportunity to improve my performance


My work is neither too demanding nor is it too easy or boring (-5…..0….+5)

People in my work group help one another without being told to do so, even if it is

beyond their scope of work. (0……………………10)

I have a good knowledge of the products and services my company provides.


I personally feel a proud connection to these products and services.


I know what my contribution to my organization is. (0……………………10)

This organization will help me grow and advance down my career path.


 Contributed by Ankita Verma, (Class of 2009, IBS Hyderabad)

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