The following is excerpted with permission:
Despite all that has been written on the subject, the premise of this book is that leadership is poorly understood because human systems are poorly under- stood. Like the paradigms of old, which were eventually discarded—flat earth, earth at the center of the universe, and so on—most people are trapped in a limiting paradigm of personal authority and human systems. Problems are understood as “clashes of personality,” and blame is directed at the superficial level of individuals, groups, and structure. The result is hardly more sophisticated than a soap opera. The true root cause is over- looked, and hence perpetuated.
There is a way out, clearly demonstrated, consistently replicated, and yet little known. This book clarifies that path, already blazed by pioneers such as Edwin Friedman and my father, organization development pioneer, Robert P. Crosby, and guides you on that path in four sections. The first section is focused on Friedman’s transformational leadership model; the second, the theory of human systems from which that leadership model emerged; the third, a deep, yet practical, exploration of self-awareness and interpersonal skills related to leadership; and the fourth and final section a practical application of the aforementioned leadership model to getting results in an organization.
An equally important premise of this book is that everybody has authority issues. It is part of the human condition. Everybody starts life totally dependent on adults caring for them, and our beliefs, emotions, and behavioral habits regarding authority are forged in that early experience.
Despite this universal presence of authority relationships in human families and institutions, many people go through life in denial, or at least unaware, of their biases about authority. Even those teaching and writing about leadership (including me) have authority issues. Many in my profession of organization development have advocated for decades for flat organizations, “self-organizing” organizations, leaderless teams, “servant leadership,” “upside-down” organizations, and a plethora of other approaches seeking a cure for the conflicts, convoluted communication, and inefficiencies that often emerge between leaders and subordinates. Tom Peters, as just one prominent example, in his bestselling In Search of Excellence heaped praise on the Uddevalla Volvo plant for opening its doors with leaderless teams. The same year that his book was published, sadly, the plant had to shut its doors due to low productivity/high cost production.
This is not to say that you can’t make flat structures work. However, to do so, you have to have clarity about authority. You have to know who will decide what, how, and by when, and you need everyone as aligned as possible in support of the authority structure in your system. You also need clarity about human systems. Starting with yourself, you must lead toward a high-performance culture. Without such clarity, even in the simple structure of a hierarchy, you will have chaos.
Friedman’s leadership model, in my opinion, is superior, precisely because it takes our authority issues into account, and guides each per- son in how to adjust and continually become a more effective and mature leader.
Leadership can be learned. Although there is art to leadership, there is also science. With this text you will gain a new understanding of human systems and of how to improve yourself and the system you are in. High- performance culture and high-performance leadership are mirror images of each other. Once you grasp the principals, the key will be in your hands.