Employee Engagement: Lead Without Command and Control


In their article “How Command and Control as a Change Leadership Style Causes Transformational Change Efforts to Fail,” Dean Anderson and Linda Ackerman Anderson Command remarked that “Control as a change leadership style destroys virtually any chance of success in nine out of ten transformational change efforts.”

Turbulent Commercial Environment

Whether you like it or not the business environment will always be turbulent. One had to read about how the cereal industry started in a small town called Battle Creek near Great Lakes, Michigan, USA, to see the speed of change in this industry even from the start. This is a small example of the randomness of change.

Joel A. Barker, who is famous for his concept of paradigm shift, had given us the concept of the paradigm shift or S curve. This curve simply shows the different phases all paradigms go through.

Paul Nunes and Tim Breene are leaders of Accenture’s High Performance Business Research program. They found that high performing companies actively manage to the cresting of three hidden S-curves that reach the end of their lives well before the company’s financial curve reaches its peak. They suggested that by jumping these three-curves early, while the core business continues to thrive, companies lay the foundation for a successful leap to a new financial S-curve later and that helps to sustain the business. That is all theory; easier said than done.

In common sense terms, as we live in a big world with so many people, there will be someone who will thought of or is already working on an idea that make your company’s services or products obsolete. He or she may not even know that. The lesson is not to disregard the potential of any idea because you have not found any use for it or because you think that it is impossible to materialize. This is why change is constant.

Bureaucratic Management

In the late 1800s, Max Weber criticized organizations for running their businesses like a family, or what some of us might refer to as ‘mom and pop’. Weber believed this informal organization of supervisors and employees inhibited the potential success of a company because power was misplaced.

Bureaucratic structures evolved from traditional structures with the following changes:

  • Hierarchical organization
  • Delineated lines of authority with fixed areas of activity
  • Action taken on the basis of, and recorded in, written rules
  • Bureaucratic officials with expert training
  • Rules implemented by neutral officials
  • Career advancement depending on technical qualifications judged by organization, not individuals.

According to him, a bureaucracy always displays the following characteristics:

  • Hierarchy
  • Specialization
  • Division of labor
  • Standard operating procedure

Max Weber self-confessed that his system is an iron cage.

Modern Management Theory

Max Weber’s bureaucratization of the modern world has crept into main-stream management practices.

In their book “Management – A Systems and Contingency Analysis of Managerial Functions” published in 1976, Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell, listed the following managerial functions:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Staffing
  • Directing and leading
  • Controlling

Military and Government Organization

A bureaucratic structure may be a more stable structure for the military and government organizations:

  • They are not revenue nor profit-oriented. They sustain on taxpayer’s money.
  • Usually, they are monopolies.
  • They have more stable operating environment.

What are Authority and Control

According to Henry Fayol, (positional) authority is the right to give order and power to exact (get) obedience. He also explained control as “Control of an undertaking consists of seeing that everything is being carried out in accordance with the plan which has been adopted, the orders which have been given, and the principles which have been laid down. Its object is to point out mistakes in order that they may be rectified and prevented from recurring”

Management by Fear and Intimidation

Those of you who have working experience, you would agree that positional authority and control is subject to frequent abuse. When that happens, employees become disengaged.

Bob MacDonald, founder of LifeUSA Insurance and retired CEO of Allianz Life, N.A said this in his blog article “The Best Antidote for Intimidation is to Intimidate the Intimidator”:

“Those who consistently use their position or power in an organization to intimidate others do so in response to their own inner anxieties of insecurity, weakness and fear of being exposed as incompetent…………..Those who suffer from the application of workplace intimidation become overly fearful of offering their ideas or sharing their concern. They are wary of taking the initiative and, accordingly, their doubts become self-fulfilling. Even worse, those who succumb to intimidation become little more than frustrated drones, mindlessly carrying out a sort of genetic blueprint drawn by the intimidating figure from on high.”

Workplace Bullying

Professor James Petra in the article ” Corporate ‘Labor Reform'”: Proposals to Maximize Workplace Bullying said the following. It highlights the serious defect of Max Weber’s ideas; that it propagates unscrupulous employers.

“  ‘Labor reforms’ are not policies designed to end unemployment, encourage economic recovery and increase capital expenditure.  They are not an economic strategy.  The principle goal is to concentrate power in the hands of the bosses in order to lower labor costs, increase profits and double-up production from a reduced workforce.

Bullying has an economic function – it is designed to increase output, inculcate obedience and raise profits.  But management bullying has profound negative psycho-social effects on workers.  Verbal abuse, face to face intimidation, arbitrary downgrading without recourse and other everyday indignities cause depression, a loss of self-worth dignity.  This leads  to self-abuse, worker and family violence and/or a ‘chain of bullying’ of those below … children, spouses, neighbors and outsiders (immigrants).

The bullying by management does not merely express itself in victimizing workers but also in forcing them to enter in “co-operative relations” where they are supposed to ‘share’ tasks, responsibilities and innovations, without rewards or say in the distribution of material benefits or in the shaping of workplace power relations.  It’s bad enough to be bullied and exploited, its worse to be forced to co-operate with management bullies, to smile at indignities and praise the degrading relationships.”

For, the way I see that we can minimize such problems is to maintain businesses at a size where everyone can know everyone else and also to have little or less manager-subordinate organizational structure or relationships.

Managed By Decentralization and Simplification

Peter Drucker discounted the command and control model and asserted that companies work best when they are decentralized. Similarly, 1 of the 8 themes in Tom Peters and Robert Waterman’s book “In Search of Excellence” was simple form and lean staff.

On small teams, peer pressure is a powerful force. People feel loyal to a team and responsible to their teammates in ways they rarely do to a large organization. “We have found that the more freedom and autonomy we give our people, the more we let them know about how the company works, the more committed and responsible they become,” John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Food.

Beyond Employee Participation and Involvement – It’s All About Performance and Responsibility

Blake and Mouton developed a leadership style theory consisting of a matrix of 4 styles (Human Relationship Leader, Democratic Leader, Laissez Faire Leader, Autocratic Leader)

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970) developed a model on employee involvement. This is a continuum that showed an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process.

  • Tell:the supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff. The supervisor provides complete direction
  • Sell:the supervisor makes the decision and then attempts to gain commitment from staff by “selling” the positive aspects of the decision.
  • Consult:the supervisor invites input into a decision while retaining authority to make the final decision herself.
  • Join:the supervisor invites employees to make the decision with the supervisor. The supervisor considers her voice equal in the decision process.
  • Delegate:the supervisor turns the decision over to another party (This last item was suggested by Susan M. Heathfield).

However, I believed that they missed the main point. For Peter Drucker, the goal of management is to develop peak performance and responsibility.

Semco is a thriving example of a democratic workplace. Semco has no job titles, no organizational charts, and no headquarters. If you need an office, you go online and reserve space at one of the few satellite offices scattered around Sao Paulo. Semler said, “If you don’t even know where your people are, you can’t possibly keep an eye on them. All that’s left to judge is performance.” What’s gets judged at your company, visibility or performance? It is also interesting that its CEO, Ricardo Semler, wrote an article in Harvard Business Review entitled “Managing Without Managers”.

I personally think that the keys to performance and responsibility are discipline and commitment.

Management costs are indirect, recurring and significant costs. I personally believed the return of investment on management costs is often low. I also believed that if teams of adults with broad and deep competencies can take responsibility for their livelihood and be disciplined and committed enough to fulfill the obligations of their contractual obligations, the business can be leaner, with less management staff, with more profits going to better salary to better trained and more experienced staff. Businesses need less of people who merely do the talk or order others but do not do the work. Perhaps, what are more needed are mentors cum facilitators that can support team. At the end of the day business are driven by profits and not management organizational theory.


How Command and Control as a Change Leadership Style Causes Transformational Change Efforts to Fail


Beyond Command-and-Control : Managing the Diverse Corporation in Today’s Turbulent Times


Command-and-Control Leadership versus People-Centered-Leadership


Paradigms – The Business of Discovering The Future


Challenging the S-Curve: Patterns of Technological Subsitution


Jumping The S-Curve: How To Beat The Growth Cycle Get On Top and Stay There


Career Mobility and Career Pathing and Design


Why You Will Fail to Have A Great Career


Bureaucratic Form According to Max Weber – His Six Major Principles


Bureaucracy: Max Weber Form of Impersonal Management


The Bureaucracy


Max Weber – Bureaucracy


The Best Antidote for Intimidation is to Intimidate the Intimidator


Are You Being Managed By Fear?The 20 Drop-Dead Signs That It Is Happening


Difference Between Power and Authority


Control (Management)


Identifying A Workplace Bully


Corporate “Labor Reform”: Proposals to Maximize Workplace Bullying



Peter Drucker


Drop That Spoon! The Truth About Breakfast Cereals


“Discovering The Future” Series


Tom Peters – In Search of Excellence


Semco – Insanity That Works


Employee Involvement


Leadership Styles and Their Conseuqences


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