Mathew R. Fairholm in his article ‘Leadership and Organizational Strategy’ makes a clear distinction between ‘strategic planning’ and ‘strategic thinking’, the latter being more concerned with a downward focus on ensuring that employees throughout the company understand the values and purpose of the company as a whole, thereby leaving them with a greater sense of connection to the company or institute. In this sense, strategic thinking leans more towards leadership than traditional management. Fairholm’s theory is particularly interesting in that he emphasises the leader’s abilities to ‘see and feel’ important issues within a company. It is a theory that promotes a great deal of trust between employees and the company. In a more practical sense, the best experiences I have had in my 10 year teaching career have taken place in schools/ companies that I have had a trusting relationship with. This is because this trust allowed me to connect more to the companies’ ethos.
Given my interest in postmodern discourses, I am particularly impressed with the ‘Why-What-How Approach’ to strategic thinking. Postmodernism is inherently concerned with the dispersal of homogenous discourses and the ‘Why-What-How Approach’ sees the world as non-linear allowing organizations to focus on its relationship with the whole. Leadership in this sense gives an organization more ‘soul’ in that the dispersion of homogeneity allows, in a self-consciously contradictory postmodern sense, for the organization to have greater identity from top to bottom. I recently listened to a lecture by Simon Sinek in which he repeated the mantra which he believes allows some companies to succeed when equally strong competitors fail: ‘it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it’. Sinek argues that a company’s belief in itself is its greatest marketing tool. In this regard, strategic thinking that allows all employees to feed into the belief system of the organization only adds to the organization’s purpose. Employees then, add to the ‘values’ of the company/ institute rather than only to its objectives, thus allowing them to become more connected and involved.
In many ways, Fairholm’s reference to the unleashing of information over the controlling of it, along with his principle of working with ‘unmeasurables’ reminds me of ‘Anarcho-syndicalism’. I don’t want to turn readers away with the mentioning of Anarchism (I wish they had named it something less aggressive!), a term which does carry a lot of negative reactionary connotations. Anarcho-sydicalism supports the idea that workers should be self-managing and that they should be empowered to make decisions within an organization independently of hierarchy. This is because all decisions that they make for the organization directly affects themselves. Allowing workers to have this kind of empowerment is perhaps the most effective way of allowing them to add ‘values’ to the organization as a whole, to connect to it, believe in it, and to essentially give it ‘soul’.
Fairholm, Mathew R., ‘Leadership and Organization Planning’, The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Volume 14(1), 2009, article 3.
Sinek, Simon, ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en