Greenleaf notes that an organization has two main structures: ‘Formal and Informal.’ Greenleaf writes: The ‘formal’ structure consists of the more or less definite arrangements and ways of working that are spelled out in statutes and rules or established in practice. These take care of routine operations, specify lines of reporting and authority for certain actions and expenditures, and outline steps to be taken in certain anticipated circumstances.

The ‘informal’ structure responds more to ‘leadership:’ building purpose and challenging with opportunity, judicious use of incentives, astute ordering of priorities and allocating resources where they count the most. Leadership provides the encouragement and the shelter for venturing and risking the unpopular. It gives support for ethical behavior and creative ways for doing things better.

…there is a paradox in this relationship. The necessary order and consistency which the formal structure gives also interferes with and inhibits the informal structure. …order and consistency are both necessary and inhibitive. …The result then, is a tension between order and consistency…and initiative and creativity… The challenge is to keep this tension at a healthy level that has an optimizing effect.

‘Management’ (the relationship between the manager/supervisor and the managed/supervised) is charged with achieving efficiency, effectiveness and stability. ‘Leadership’ (the relationship between the Leader and the Led) is charged with taking risks, experimenting, innovating, and co-creating. ‘Young’ organizations generally favor ‘Leadership’ (as I define it) and ‘Mature’ organizations tend to favor ‘Management’ (‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! is their mantra).

Healthy organizations will, with intention and purpose, seek to embrace both. They will seek to maintain – be stable – and experiment at the same time. They will ensure that there are folks who are gifted at doing both (these, more likely than not, will not be the same folks) and that they learn to, at minimum, tolerate one another and, at maximum, actively support one another.

‘Being Stable’ tends to raise the anxiety of the ‘Experimenters’ and ‘Experimenting’ tends to raise the anxiety of those who seek to keep things ‘Stable.’ ‘Anxiety’ among both groups indicates that ‘things are actually going well.’ If one group is anxious and the other is anxiety-free then something ‘bad’ is afoot. By the by, ‘Experimenters’ are more tolerant (if not accepting) of ‘Stabilizers.’ On the other hand, ‘Stabilizers’ tend to be more wary, if not suspicious’ of ‘Experimenters.’

Gentle reader, are the organizations you are familiar with rooted in a balance between ‘Management’ and ‘Leadership’? Is one emphasized more than the other? How do you know? What are some of the by-products of ‘being in balance’? What are some of the by-products if one is emphasized over the other?

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