Categories
e. Social Interactions Part 2

Social Interactions (Part 2)

Inter-organisational Interactions

Three main factors affect whether an organisation interacts co-operatively with another, or engages in positive or negative competition. The same principles apply to individuals except that they are their own leader. These are:

  1. Leadership. Organisations reflect their leadership. Their behaviour differs according to whether the leader acts in his or her personal interest or in that of the organisation. Usually, there is a balance between the two.
  2. Resources. If a necessary input or resource is plentiful, then there will normally be co-operation or positive competition for it. On the other hand, if it is, or is becoming, insufficient to satisfy all parties, then negative competition will result. The planning, establishment, existence, or growth of an organisation can act as negative motivator to another that, either directly or indirectly, needs the same resource. If a threatened organisation already exists, it will engage in negative competition. If it does not, then one may be established with the same result. When two organisations are in negative competition, then the belief system and culture of each is progressively strengthened and becomes more selfish. Positive feedback then occurs, in which stronger identity and self-interest leads to greater perceived threat, which in turn leads to stronger identity and self-interest. Ultimately, conflict can result. Usually, both parties lose, but negative competition can also lead to some maintaining or even improving their situation, whilst making the situation worse for others.
  3. Distance. The effect that one organisation can have on another depends on distance, i.e., how many causally connected organisations form a chain. Clearly, if there is a chain of such connections between organisations, then it is also possible for there to be positive, negative, or regulating feedback. The example of negatively competing organisations given above embodies positive feedback. With just one organisation in a causal chain, feedback must, by definition, exist, i.e., the organisation’s outputs become its inputs. This is the basis of self-maintenance and growth. For example, a business normally reinvests some of its income. If there are two organisations in a chain, then the outputs from one form inputs for the other. As explained above, the former’s outputs may be necessary for the latter, or there may be other organisations providing the same inputs, i.e., redundancy, and this makes the recipient more resilient. A particular input may also be necessary, but not sufficient, and others are usually required for an organisation to carry out its function. Thus, the relationships on the input side of an organisation are more like a tree, with several organisations providing inputs for one, several also providing inputs to each of those, and so on. Nevertheless, a chain exists between any two organisations in this tree. For example, a farmer provides flour to a wholesaler, who refines it and supplies it to a baker, who in turn supplies bread to a supermarket. In general, the longer the chain, the more likely it is that redundancies will occur, and the less influence a supplier at one end will have over a consumer at the other. Nevertheless, there may still exist critical suppliers or consumers whose failure will either directly impact on an organisation or indirectly via the demise of others in the chain. For example, a critical supplier may source resources unethically, or a critical consumer may cause pollution, thereby generating opposition and their ultimate demise. So, longer term organisational survival depends on the identification of any such critical external organisations, and the introduction of changes or redundancies.

Intra-organisational Interactions

Social intra-organisational interactions are not possible for individuals. For an individual, internal interactions are biological. Thus, social interactions apply only to organisations comprising two people or more.

The same three factors, i.e., leadership, resources, and distance, affect intra-organisational interactions. Their impact is, however, via the attributes necessary for an organisation to carry out its purpose or function successfully. These are:

  1. The purpose or function of the organisation:
    • relates to an external demand or need;
    • is agreed by members of the organisation, i.e., individuals and component organisations;
    • is clearly defined and communicated;
    • has the commitment of members of the organisation; and
    • is consistent with the culture of the organisation.
  2. Organisational structure:
    • is effectively divided into component functions;
    • includes effective operational systems;
    • includes effective interaction between component functions, including the transmission of information; and
    • includes an acceptable balance of effort vs. reward for individuals and sub-organisations.
  3. Leadership:
    • has the appropriate skills;
    • is effectively structured; and
    • comprises effective management, monitoring, and control.
  4. Resources.
    • There is adequate availability of the necessary resources.

If all these attributes exist, then attitudes will be ones of of co-operation or positive competition. However, negative competition can arise if just one is deficient. There are causal relationships between these attributes, and a deficiency in one can lead to negative competition, which, in turn, can lead to a deficiency in another. For example, if the purpose of the organisation is not clearly defined and communicated, then competing opinions can arise. If these are expressed in the form of positive competition, then ultimately there will be agreement on the better option. However, if competition becomes negative, then members of the organisation will commit to one or the other, interactions between parts of the organisation will be less effective, and so on. There are many possibilities, and the range is too great to list here.

Extra-organisational Interactions

Positive extra-organisational competition is the natural order, i.e., both the natural world and humanity are evolving, in different ways, thereby improving our likelihood of survival. The outcome is unknown but, as mentioned in a previous article, the direction of travel seems to be one of subsuming the natural environment into the human economy.

For the present at least, the non-human environment generally lacks agency, and any agency that it does have cannot successfully compete with that of humanity. The natural world cannot engage in negative competition, therefore. Any apparent pushback, e.g., viral pandemics, is simply a matter of evolutionary adaptation to the existence of humanity.

We rely on the environment for our continued existence, and any environmental damage, depletion of resources, or other form of misuse ultimately has an adverse effect on us. If extra-organisational interactions comprise negative competition, i.e., if we prevent our environment from carrying out its function, then people will see this as a threat and engage in negative competition on the environment’s behalf.

On the other hand, if extra-organisational interactions are co-operative, then this leads to stable and sustainable relationships with the environment, in which both are able to pursue their destiny without the one impeding the other. The environment is unable to actively co-operate with humanity and help us in this. However, the reverse is not true and is the path that I would advocate.

Categories
l. Power

Power

Leadership and power are two different aspects of social status, and there is a constant interplay between them. Leadership maintains group cohesion and purpose and enables us to adapt in a changing environment. Power, on the other hand, is the ability to direct the resources of sub-ordinates to some purpose.

Many people actively seek social status which, as well as holding leadership obligations, also conveys power. The reasons are diverse and vary from individual to individual. For example, it might be a consequence of lacking a feeling of safety, the influence of upbringing, or the influence of a role model. However, the principal motivators are thought to be:

  1. A desire to be in control of one’s own affairs and freedom from social demands. Power enables one to enjoy the benefits of a co-operative society without the associated effort of negotiating and compromising with large numbers of other people. Rather, it is easier to negotiate with just a few in a hierarchy. Those who seek power for this reason can often be identified by their retiring nature, e.g., living in homes surrounded by security fencing and avoiding the media.
  2. A desire for control over the affairs of others as a means of obtaining positive regard. Such seekers of power have a tendency towards narcissism and publicity seeking. They enjoy their status and having others look up to them.
  3. The pursuit of resources. When people believe that they have insufficient resources to satisfy, and sustain the satisfaction of their personal needs, they will attempt to control the resources of others: i.e., their time, physical effort, mental effort, and property. We seek to satisfy our needs as efficiently as possible. From a personal perspective it is more efficient to do so using the resources of others, rather than our own. Although communities rely on reciprocal trading for the equitable satisfaction of their members’ needs, some members will use strategies to tilt the balance of reciprocation in their favour. They will, therefore, benefit inequitably from the resources of the group.

The drive to acquire social status is a natural part of the human psyche and the consequence of millions of years of evolution. In the past, it has enabled us to survive and prosper. It is a part of human nature. Without it we would be less than human, and we certainly lack the skills to design a better psyche. However, one component of social status, the drive to acquire power, now poses a threat to the future of humanity. The answer, however, is not to attempt to remove it by technical or psychological means. Nor is the answer the replacement of one ideology by another. Nor is it the replacement of particular individuals or groups by others, e.g., men by women, or the elite by the working class. This is because we all seek power to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, the answer is to put in place social controls and attitudes which will ensure that power does not eclipse the other aspect of social status, leadership. In this way requisite hierarchy can be made to benefit all of humanity and life on earth.

Categories
k. Why We Follow a Leader

Why We Follow a Leader

Much has been written about leadership, particularly concerning what constitutes a “good” or “effective” leader. However, the topic of why people follow a leader has been relatively neglected. For historical reasons, in the West, there are strong positive connotations associated with being a leader and negative connotations with being a follower. This was brought about by a historical tendency for the powerful, e.g., royalty, the church, the Nazi party, etc., to seize control, and for people who dared to challenge them to suffer. High status individuals have also received, and in many cases continue to receive, a disproportionate reward from society, in the form of prestige and wealth. There is now such a strong cultural assumption that followers are passive subordinates, and less competent than leaders, that many of us are not even aware that it exists. I hope to dispel this assumption because it does not serve us well.

The systems theory explanation for why we follow a leader is as follows. Human organisations are self-maintaining adaptive systems, and subject therefore to the principle of requisite hierarchy. In essence, leaders are a command sub-system that maintains group cohesion and purpose, and that enables us to adapt to a changing environment.

The evolutionary explanation for why we follow a leader is as follows. Tribes which have greater co-ordination, co-operation, and innovative thinking have a greater chance of surviving and prospering than those without these characteristics. The former requires a social structure in the form of leaders and followers. However, human beings are less hierarchical than other primates and tend to shy away from authoritarian leadership. Rather, in a successful tribe, one person with skills, e.g., hunting, or emotional intelligence, that are relevant to the problem to be solved, chooses to lead and the others to follow. This, of course suggests that both leaders and followers have a role in determining what the hierarchy should be. It also suggests that the hierarchy should alter according to circumstances, if the tribe is to be successful. In general systems theory this is known as redundancy of potential command. Providing the interests of both the leader and the followers are aligned, which unfortunately is not always the case, leadership is a process of mutual influence in which leaders and followers work together towards a common goal.

The psychological explanation is as follows. The leader/follower relationship is one of trade and depends on the pressing needs of the two individuals concerned. A follower may follow a leader who provides for his existence, connectedness, or growth needs as a part of the trade. A leader can, for example, offer certainty, which is a growth need. On the other hand, a leader may lack the resources to achieve a particular goal on his own and, thus, may need the support of followers.

In a non-authoritarian regime, there are three types of followers: passive, active, and non-followers. These are not necessarily personality types. People can move from one to another depending on the style of leadership required. Passive followers are content to be obedient; non-followers avoid involvement; but active followers make a constructive contribution to the leadership process. If necessary, the latter can challenge decisions, and work with the leader to devise more effective or appropriate courses of action. Thus, there are feedback loops in which leaders influence followers who, in turn, influence leaders. These loops can be negative, causing behaviours to be extinguished, or positive, causing them to be amplified.

Many people can switch role from follower to leader, and vice versa, but unfortunately, historical beliefs still hamper this. In the past, Western culture has favoured established hierarchies and reward structures. However, society is now so complex that a single individual is incapable of leading in all circumstances. It can be argued that in the modern world, followers are beginning, once more, to select their leaders. Certainly, this is true in democratic politics. However, it is less the case in business.

There are two main ways in which we assess a leader or potential leader:

  1. System-1 is an automatic system that operates quickly, with little or no effort, and in which emotion, beliefs, and past experience have a part to play. This system is informal and leaders tend to emerge naturally. Unfortunately, when selecting or continuing to follow a leader, we tend to attribute outcomes to the leader rather than to complex processes.
  2. System-2 is a more formal reasoned response and requires the time, attention, focus, and effort needed for complex mental activities, e.g., calculations.

The relationship between a leader and a follower is, also, of two types:

  1. distant, such as that between a politician and the electorate, and
  2. close, such as that between a manager and a worker.

The decision whether to follow a close leader is usually a system-2 inference and based on associating the leader’s behaviour and decisions with results. However, the decision on whether to follow a distant leader is a system-1 inference. Distant leaders tend to articulate ideals and visions and to use “symbolism, mysticism, imaging and fantasy”. Distant followers have little knowledge of his or her actual character and performance and relatively few clues as to what it may be. Followers may, for example, be impressed by the leader’s rhetoric or public life story.

In the case of a distant relationship, the type of leader that a follower selects depends on the following.

  1. When people face an existential threat, e.g., war or terrorism, the need for safety comes to the fore. Followers will favour a leader perceived as strong, wise, and competent, i.e., an authoritarian, protective, and often right-wing figure. This tendency is cross-cultural. It is thought to originate from our long childhood, during which most of us relied on our parents for safety.
  2. In circumstances where a non-existential threat is perceived, but the cause is complex and difficult to identify, people from all cultures will become stressed by the situation. They will follow a leader, particularly a charismatic one, who is able to provide an easily understood explanation. Often this explanation is overly simple and incorrect, but it is the need for certainty and the reduction in distress that the follower is seeking. In recent years, such leaders have been described as “populist”.
  3. Finally, during a period of stability, the need for identity and belonging comes to the fore. Followers will seek a leader who gives meaning to their social identity by acting as a symbol of their culture. Unlike the above, this is a culture specific response, and the characteristics of the chosen leader will differ from one culture to the next.

Clearly, from the above, it is possible for individuals to pursue personal objectives by presenting themselves as a leader of the type that followers seek. Particularly in the case of distant leaders, there is little evidence to confirm that the leader’s objectives are truly aligned with those of the follower, and they may, in fact, be personal but disguised. Improving followers’ skills in choosing leaders, and limiting their willingness to follow, would therefore improve the quality of leadership everywhere, but especially in the political, social, and ideological realms.

Categories
j. Hierarchy Emergence - Introduction

Hierarchy Emergence – Introduction

A person’s social status in an organisation, from a club to a nation, is a measure of their attributes of leadership and power. Social status takes the form of a pyramidical hierarchy. Each level in the hierarchy is known as a stratum. Those in a higher stratum are normally fewer in number and have greater social status than those in a lower stratum. Such hierarchies are ubiquitous. Even organisations whose stated aims are socialist and progressive have hierarchies within them. The perception of relative status is important in determining how people interact with one another. Those of higher status will trade delegated status for the support of those of lower status, and vice versa. However, they will often compete with those of similar status.

An understanding of how status hierarchies arise can be gained by considering very small groups of individuals. In a group of just two people, the attributes of leadership and power in both are often similar. This leads to an equitable balance in social status. It is only where the attributes of one are greater than those of the other that differences emerge. For example, if person A clearly has more knowledge of how to tackle a situation than person B, then, in their mutual interest, B may defer to A. Similarly, if person B is more dominant through reasons of personality, physical strength, economic power, etc., then person A, in his own interest, may defer to B.

However, in a group of three, a hierarchy is almost inevitable. If person A clearly has greater attributes of leadership and power than B & C combined, then they will usually defer to him. However, if the attributes of A & C are roughly equal but greater than those of B, then there will be competition between A & C. Person B may acknowledge the higher status of both, but to avoid lowest status, may support whoever offers him greatest benefit in return, e.g., A. The attributes of an alliance of two are usually greater than those of one alone. The result is, therefore, that A gains highest status, followed by his supporter B, and C has lowest status. As a rule, the hierarchy ABC will offer greater benefit to every member than would be the case if each operated in isolation, and so, it may be accepted.

Another strategy for B is to remain neutral and encourage competition between A & C. B can then either wait for one of the others to negotiate with him, or alternatively, approach the person least confident of winning the competition.

Even at this very small scale, it is not necessarily the most competent leader who achieves highest status. Much depends on how highly the group members value competent leadership over personal interest. Unfortunately, it is also the case that power tends to trump leadership. A social hierarchy can, therefore, often be based on the former rather than the latter.

Although the interactions described above are between two or three individuals, they take place on a day-to-day basis between members of much larger organisations, the organisations themselves, and sub-organisations within them. Ultimately, a highest status individual, whose motives may or may not be the same as those of the organisation, either emerges from it or joins it.

However, hierarchies in very small groups can be dynamic, whilst those in larger groups are more entrenched. Small organisations tend to be informal and influenced by the character of particular individuals. Thus, when individuals or circumstances change, then so too does the nature of the hierarchy. However, as hierarchies become larger and more complex, they increasingly need a formal structure, with titles and reporting lines. These enable people to better understand their roles and co-operate. In formal hierarchies, roles and reporting lines are independent of individuals, who may change from time to time.

Categories
b. Competition and Co-operation

Competition & Co-operation

According to ecological theory, the population of a species will grow until it becomes constrained by the available resources. These resources then become insufficient to satisfy the needs of all members of the species, and they will compete for them. This is a natural evolutionary process and applies as much to humanity as it does to any other species.

However, competition is of two types: negative and positive. Negative competition involves preventing a competitor from achieving their aims. In a running race, for example, competitors who engage in negative competition will attempt to trip one another up. Clearly, when taken to extreme, this can lead to conflict. Positive competition, on the other hand, involves each competitor striving to be superior to the other. In the example of a running race, each strives to be first to reach the finish line.

Counter-intuitively, positive competition can lead to co-operation, and thus, to human organisation. This form of competition reveals the most competent individual for a particular task. Other competitors, providing they are not engaging in negative competition, recognise that the task is best carried out by that person. They also recognise that there is benefit in excelling in their own niche and trading its outputs with those who most efficiently occupy others.  For example, whoever is best at hunting will be recognised as the hunter, whoever best at fishing recognised as the fisherman, and the two will trade fish for meat to the advantage of both. Thus, an efficient “division of labour” emerges, with everyone doing what they do best, and each task being done by whoever is most competent to do it. In the absence of negative competition, trust also emerges, and everyone benefits through a process of trade.

Leadership is just one necessary task in human organisation. In general systems theory it is referred to as requisite hierarchy. It involves organizing the tasks carried out by a group of people to achieve a common goal, identifying who is most suited to each task, amicably resolving any disagreements, and discouraging any negative competition. The most competent leader is also revealed by positive competition. Through a process of trust and trade, e.g., fish and meat for leadership effort, the others come to accept him or her. With a leader and a division of labour in place, an organisation can be said to have formed.

Clearly, positive competition is socially beneficial, and negative competition socially harmful. In the running race, positive competition results in it being won in the shortest possible time, i.e., most efficiently. Negative competition, on the other hand, can lead to it never being won at all, if the participants descend to trading blows at the halfway point. Obviously, the benefits of positive competition described above seem rather idealistic. In practice, all human beings continuously balance their immediate interests with their longer-term interests gained from the support of a co-operative group. We all engage in both positive and negative competition to varying degrees. So, there are many ways in which human organisation can fail and I will discuss some of them in future articles.

Historically, humanity has extensively engaged in negative competition. Like many animals, early man competed aggressively for territory and the resources it contained. However, again like many animals, co-operation probably originated in small family groups. Unlike other animals, however, a virtuous circle, or positive feedback loop, developed.  When two organized groups engage in positive competition, they begin to co-operate, and form a yet larger organized group. This, in turn, leads to ever greater skill and efficiency in acquiring resources and, thus, ever greater population. The process scales up. Thus, tribes formed kingdoms, kingdoms formed  nations, and nations formed cultural groups, until we arrived at the world we see today.

Some, who feel that they cannot succeed in positive competition, will resort to negative competition. So, to reduce this within organized groups, norms, i.e., codes of acceptable behaviour, and methods of enforcement were established. In smaller groups, such as tribes, this would have been the word of the leader. However, as the membership of organized groups became ever larger, it became necessary to generalize and formalise these norms as laws, and to delegate their enforcement. In the world today, laws exist in all nations. Enforcement also exists, to a greater or lesser extent, and this has a strong bearing on a nation’s success or failure.

Negative competition has always existed between organized groups, from the tribal to the national scale. Hence the wars that we have seen in the past. It could even be argued that the two go hand in hand, because positive competition would result in tribes and nations merging to form larger organized groups. To a large extent this negative competition still exists today and, although they are becoming rarer, wars continue to take place. Unfortunately, control over negative competition between nations is still in its infancy, and many of the existential threats that humanity faces are global in nature. Suggestions as to how to take this forward are, therefore, given in a future article.

Categories
a. An Introduction to Organisations

An Introduction to Organisations

To carry out communal activities at any scale, we form what I will describe, generically, as “organisations”. These are formal or informal groups of individuals that have their own culture and purpose. They can be religious, political, economic, or have some other function.

All human organisations are self-maintaining systems. As an organisation comes into existence and develops, so too does a hierarchy within it. For the organisation to function efficiently and effectively, its members must specialise. This, in turn, requires the co-ordination of their activities. For example, a typical commercial enterprise comprises a managing director followed by directors, senior managers, middle managers, junior managers, and ordinary employees. A typical religion might be organised with a god at the top, followed by “his representative on earth”, and so on down to the lay population. Such hierarchies exist everywhere in society, albeit with different names for the various strata, and we take this for granted.

However, the type of hierarchy in an organisation depends on the extent to which it relies on leadership or power for control. A person with leadership attributes gains high status by virtue of skills in directing a group of individuals to an agreed common goal. Generally, these skills are recognised by the subordinates, and the leader’s status is held with their consent. On the other hand, a person with power attributes has skills in directing a group of individuals to a goal set by him, her or those above. He or she does not necessarily hold their status with their subordinates’ consent. Individuals in a hierarchy generally hold a combination of both attributes, each manifesting to a greater or lesser degree. Unfortunately, there has been a history of power masquerading as leadership, and the term “leader” is used to describe both those who exercise power and those who exercise genuine leadership. In this series of articles, I will, therefore, use the terms “highest status”, “high status”, “low status”, “lowest status”, “senior” and “junior” when referring to the members of a hierarchy.

Control and adaptation mechanisms in an organisation or sub-organisation depend on the highest status individuals receiving information from those of lower status and issuing instructions to them. The balance of leadership and power attributes can vary from organisation to organisation and from sub-organisation to sub-organisation. It is normally a reflection of the attributes of its highest status members and can become entrenched as a culture.

In the same way as systems, all organisations contain sub-organisations and are part of yet larger ones. A commercial organisation, for example, may comprise departments and teams. It may also belong to a sector, i.e., a group of commercial organisations with similar purpose. Thus, organisations are themselves structured hierarchically. An outline of this hierarchy from the top down is:

  • Earth’s Ecology
  • Global Human Organisation
  • Cultural Alliances of Nations
  • Individual Nations
  • National Elites
  • Sectors (both formal and informal)
  • Named Organisations
  • Departments
  • Teams
  • Individuals

The term “organisation” is used generically to describe any one of these.

Organisations exist to facilitate the co-operation of individuals for a common purpose. Usually, they are a means of satisfying the needs and avoiding the contra-needs of a group of individuals. However, their purpose can also be to satisfy the needs and avoid the contra-needs of one or more other organisations. It is also possible for organisations to come into being with the specific purpose of creating contra-satisfiers for others, or to obstruct their satisfiers. So, in the way that it impacts on others, an organisation can be a satisfier or contra-satisfier of a type described by Max Neef.

All organisations are open systems with inputs, processes, and outputs. They have needs and contra-needs. Their needs are to carry out their function and grow, and their contra-needs are an inability to do so. Satisfiers are the inputs and internal organisation necessary for them to carry out their processes. Contra-satisfiers are anything that prevents this.

Organisations interact with one another to provide inputs and outputs. When one organisation provides the outputs needed by another, it is a satisfier of the latter’s needs. However, it can also act as a contra-satisfier, either deliberately or unintentionally. Organisations will also compete with one another for the inputs or resources required to satisfy their needs. These interactions are not necessarily at the same level in the hierarchy of organisations. For example, an individual interacts with a commercial organisation for payment or other benefits in return for his labour. He also interacts with many organisations for products and services in return for money. In general, individuals and organisations will be attracted to organisations they believe will satisfy their needs. A form of risk-benefit-cost analysis is carried out and equitable reciprocation is expected.

Finally, all organisations come into existence, carry out their function for a time, and then either expire or alter their purpose. As I discuss organisations and hierarchies in more detail, I will follow this order.

Categories
m. Quality of Implementation of Commands

Quality of Implementation of Commands

Organisations are recursive, i.e., within any organisation there are component organisations. The same is true of the command and subordinate components of an organisation. Thus, within any command component or any subordinate component there are lesser command and subordinate components.  This recursion continues until we arrive at a single individual, and so, every organisation is structured hierarchically. When an individual is a command component they are referred to as a leader. When a subordinate component, they are referred to as a follower. In practice, hierarchies exist throughout human society, and all but a very few individuals are both leader and follower. Thus, when a command is given to a subordinate component it is the command component of that subordinate component, and ultimately an individual, who is responsible for implementing it.

Both the follower and the leader have a complex of needs, and each is looking to the other to help satisfy them. Thus, the leader / follower relationship is negotiated and, if successful, provides emotional benefits to both parties. Some individuals, however, have higher followership tendencies than others. This depends on their genetic inheritance, upbringing, education, and experience. The relative influence of each factor varies from individual to individual. In practice, an understanding of human society is beyond our individual cognitive ability, and so we often simplify. Simplification can involve following a trusted leader, or following a trusted ideology, philosophy, or religion. A high follower tendency can be due to low cognitive skills, or training such as that in an army or domestic service. It can also be due to a high level of trust in the leader, gained from experience or by feedback from one’s peer group. If satisfiers have been identified and exchanged between the follower and the leader to the satisfaction of both, then mutual trust also develops.

If an individual has a high follower tendency, then they will unquestioningly implement commands. However, if they do not, then the process is as follows.

To incentivise the follower, the leader will have offered motivators in return for carrying out their command, or will have threatened motivators in return for not doing so. However, it is the follower’s interpretation of these motivators that is important. Errors can arise in communicating the leader’s offer and, normally, offers of reward are latent, i.e., deferred until completion of the task. These facts can be deliberately exploited by the leader as a rationale for not fulfilling their promise, but this does, of course, diminish the follower’s trust.

To attract followers, the leader will also have displayed a willingness and ability to provide such motivators. The more the follower trusts the leader, the more he will believe these displays. On the other hand, the more he distrusts the leader, the less he will believe them.

If the leader’s motives for issuing the command are self-serving or culturally non-compliant, then he will attempt mitigation strategies. These take the form of false displays of culturally acceptable motivation, explanations, rationales, distractions, etc. They are criticised by the follower and either believed or not. If the follower trusts the leader, then he is more likely to believe them. The follower then compares his beliefs about the command for compliance with the culture in which the organisation operates. For this to be possible the follower must have a cultural schema and an accurate knowledge of that culture.

The more the follower role is wanted, the greater the follower displays their willingness and ability to co-operate. This can take the form of voluntary feedback and displays of support for the leader. The type of leader that people choose to follow depends on the prevailing circumstances, i.e., whether we face an existential threat, a non-existential threat, or there is a period of stability. On the other hand, the less the follower role is wanted, the more they will avoid making such displays, and the more they will avoid placing themselves in a position to receive such commands.

The follower interprets the leader’s command, instruction, request, or implied wish. Such commands can have a positive or negative emotional impact. They are positive if they happen to coincide with action needed to provide the follower with personal satisfiers. Mostly, however, they are negative, require personal effort to implement, and yield no benefit other than positive feedback to the leader.

The promise of reward has a positive emotional impact on the follower. Its magnitude will depend on the relative priority of the follower’s needs at the time. However, the more the follower believes the leader has the will and ability to provide the motivator, the greater the overall benefit. Providing there is an overall benefit, the follower will seek to acquire these rewards by carrying out the leader’s commands. The more the follower benefits in this way, the more he will wish to remain a follower.

Threats of punishment, on the other hand, have a negative emotional impact. The follower will seek to remove them, either by carrying out the leader’s command or, if possible, by ceasing to be a follower. The greater the follower’s belief in the willingness and ability of the leader to implement such threats, and the greater the net disbenefits of following the leader’s commands, the less willing he will be to continue as a follower.

The follower uses a form of emotion-based risk/benefit/cost analysis to assess the overall impact of carrying out the leader’s command, taking the following into account:

  1. The greater the positive emotional impact of acquiring the promised motivators or of avoiding the threatened motivators, the greater the overall benefits.
  2. The greater the follower’s belief in the willingness and ability of the leader to provide those motivators, the greater the overall benefits.
  3. The more the resources available to the follower, and the fewer needed to implement the command, the greater the overall benefits.
  4. The nature of the follower’s peer group also has a part to play. The more compliant it is with the wishes of the leader, the greater the overall benefits.
  5. If the follower accepts that the leader’s motives for issuing the instruction are culturally compliant, this will increase the overall benefits. If the follower does not, then due to the risk of social censure, this will decrease the overall benefits.
  6. Finally, any other risks are taken into account.

A decision is then made based on this analysis. If a course of action has a positive overall emotional benefit, then the command will normally be implemented. If it has a negative one, then it will not. If implementation does not comply with cultural values and norms, then mitigation, in a form borrowed from the leader, will be necessary. The resources required will have been taken into account in the risk/benefit/cost analysis.

The consequences of implementing or not implementing a leader’s command depend on the nature of the command. Clearly, if it is harmful from a utilitarian perspective, then there are benefits to the organisation’s stakeholders in not carrying it out. Not all self-serving or culturally non-compliant commands are harmful in this way, and so these in themselves are not criteria for failing to implement a command. Rather, difficulties arise due to blind followership, a lack of criticism of the leader’s mitigation strategies, and failure to understand the culture and the ethics that underpin its values and norms. Almost without exception, we all have a follower role and a significant part to play in constraining a leader’s excesses. We should therefore treat the role seriously, and develop appropriate skills.

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l. Quality of Decision-making and Command (2)

Quality of Decision-making and Command (Part 2)

For a command to be issued, opportunities and threats which provide motivators to the command component or the organisation and its stakeholders must exist.  Normally, there are several at any one time and the command component will grasp the opportunity or avoid the threat which yields greatest emotional benefit, leaving others for later. However, what is regarded as the highest priority opportunity or threat depends upon the command components traits as described in the previous article. For example, a self-serving attitude will favour personal opportunities and threats over organisational ones.

A potential solution is then identified, and the resources required for its implementation are compared with those available. As explained in a previous article, the use of resources has a negative emotional impact. However, the greater their availability, the less this impact.

The potential solution is also compared for compliance with the command component’s understanding of the culture in which the organisation operates, i.e., social values, norms, and beliefs. Understanding of this culture can vary from a full understanding to none at all, or it can be misinterpreted. Normally, the less compliant the proposed solution, the greater the disbenefits of acting on it. However, self-serving command components can have no cultural schema, a distorted one, or may simply ignore it.

The trustworthiness of the subordinate components or followers selected to implement the command is a risk that is also assessed. This will normally be based on feedback on their past performance and a perception of whether they share mutual interests with the command component or the organisation and its stakeholders. The more trustworthy the subordinates, the greater the benefits of implementing the proposed solution.

Other risks are also considered, for example, the failure of the proposed solution to deliver the benefits anticipated, or the use of greater resources than anticipated.

A risk/benefit/cost analysis is then carried out. If carried out by an individual, it is usually based entirely on emotional impacts. However, in larger organisations it can be a more formal process. Ultimately, however, even the most thorough formal analysis is founded on emotional impacts. The analysis yields an overall emotional benefit or disbenefit by adding together the positive emotional value of the benefits sought, the negative emotional value of the resources used, and the negative emotional value of any cultural non-compliance. The trustworthiness of the followers chosen to implement the solution and any other risk factors increase or decrease these individual values.

Based on this analysis, a decision is then taken on whether to implement the proposed solution. If the analysis shows a positive overall emotional benefit, then it will normally be implemented, and the command component will then consider the next highest priority opportunity or threat. However, if it has an overall emotional disbenefit, it will not. An alternative solution will be proposed, and the process will repeat until a satisfactory solution is found, or it is concluded that there is none. Thus, one of two feedback loops will occur, depending on this decision.

If it has been decided to proceed with a solution, then a command will normally be issued. Motivators, i.e., satisfiers, may also be offered to encourage the follower to implement the command. The resources required for these motivators will have been taken into account during the risk/benefit/cost analysis. However, if the follower has previously proven unwilling or if the use of resources can be reduced, then a coercive approach involving contra-satisfiers may be threatened.

Finally, if it has been decided to implement a course of action which does not comply with cultural values and norms, e.g., if the command component’s motives are entirely self-serving, then mitigation will be necessary. In the case of an individual leader, this can take the form of false displays of culturally acceptable motivation, explanations, rationales, distractions, etc. In the case of a business organisation, mitigation services are provided by public relations consultants, advertising consultants and business psychologists. As also stated by H.G. Wells, “Advertising is legitimised lying”. In the case of a political organisation, advice can be provided by spin doctors. In the extreme it can become propaganda and the silencing of dissenting voices. Again, the resources needed for this will have been taken into account in the risk/benefit/cost analysis. It is interesting to note that a surfeit of self-serving leaders leads to a surfeit of mitigation. This, in turn, leads to much social confusion regarding the truth, and thus, to mental ill health. Positive psychology and mindfulness merely treat the symptoms and not the cause. Furthermore, they distract us from dealing with the cause.

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k. Quality of Decision-making and Command (1)

Quality of Decision-making and Command (Part 1)

Command is a generic term and can mean instructions, requests, or implied wishes.

Quality of decision-making and command determines whether decisions yield maximum utility for the stakeholders of an organisation, fail in this, or provide utility only for its leaders. A stakeholder is not merely a person or organisation with a financial interest, but one who is affected by it, directly or indirectly, in any way.

Individuals or organisations can either seek or seek to avoid command roles. Whether an individual seeks a command role depends on his genetic inheritance, upbringing, education, and experience, but the relative influence of each is not known. Ultimately, every organisation from a small club to a group of nations is commanded by a single individual. Thus, the factors which influence an individual’s attitude also affect any organisation he or she commands. There are many examples of a leader of one nation wishing to extend its influence over others.

The command component/ subordinate component relationship is known as the leader/ follower relationship when applied to individuals. Because each organisation and component organisation is led by an individual, the relationship is normally negotiated between individuals and provides emotional benefits to both. An individual’s needs are for survival/procreation, relatedness, and growth and it is the satisfaction of these needs which is the subject of negotiation. The needs of larger organisations are similar, i.e., they wish to survive, have a positive relationship with the society in which they operate, and grow. These organisational needs are interpreted by individuals when negotiations between organisations, from individual to international level, take place. However, the priorities we give to both individual and organisational needs change with time, and so too do the priorities we give to their satisfiers. Relationships can therefore alter. They can be newly established, adapt, become more or less satisfactory, or fail.

Any organisation or individual that seeks a command or leadership role will, either honestly or dishonestly, display an ability to supply motivators to potential subordinate organisations or followers. These motivators may be rewards or satisfiers of their followers’ needs. Thus, a potential individual leader will make displays of wealth, for example an expensive lifestyle, or of influence, for example name dropping. A larger potential command component will also make displays of wealth and influence. Alternatively, motivators may comprise contra-satisfiers or punishments, i.e., those things we are motivated to avoid. In this case, a potential individual leader will display power through physical strength, bullying, size of following, control over the satisfiers of potential followers, etc. A larger organisation may threaten legal action and a nation may threaten war.

The quality of any command depends on the following traits of the command component. In the case of individuals, each trait is caused by a combination of genetic inheritance, upbringing, education, and experience, but the relative influence of each is unknown. Again, because organisations are ultimately led by an individual, these traits will affect any larger decision-making body.

  1. The competence of the command component to make decisions, e.g., whether they have experience and understanding of the relevant field, and whether they have the cognitive skills to make appropriate decisions. Their focus is frequently relatively narrow. In practice, an understanding of human society is beyond our individual cognitive ability, and so we often simplify, focusing only on the particular organisation commanded and its immediate stakeholders. The more extensive the impact of the organisation, the more problematic this becomes. Thus for example, governing a nation needs to be supported by complex systems modelling of the type described at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/systems-thinking-for-civil-servants
  2. Whether the command component has a self-serving attitude or a collectivist one, i.e., a concern for themselves alone or for the organisation and its stakeholders as a whole. As explained in previous articles, we are social animals, and our individual interest strongly derives from that of our community. Usually, therefore, leaders will balance short term personal interests with longer term collectivist ones. However, this is not always the case, and some individuals will focus solely, or to a very large extent on immediate personal interest. Due to leader/ follower negotiations, this attitude can cascade down through an organisation and even affect whole nations. Ways of avoiding this will be discussed in a subsequent article.
  3. Whether the command component tends to centralise decision making upon itself or is willing to delegate it to subordinates. If the attitude is a self-serving one, then decisions will, of course, be centralised to ensure that they are in the interest of the decision-makers. If it is collectivist, then more delegation will take place. However, the more a decision is centralised, the more overloaded decision-makers will become. On the other hand, the more it can be in the interest of all stakeholders. The more it is delegated, the less likely it will be that decision makers become overloaded. On the other hand, the more likely it is to be in the interest of the sub-ordinates to whom it is delegated. Neither extreme is satisfactory. A balance needs to be struck, therefore, with monitoring and policing of decisions by both parties.
  4. Whether the command style is authoritarian or consultative. A consultative style requires time for consultation. Overloaded decision makers will, therefore, become more authoritarian, and less likely to fully acquaint themselves with the circumstances surrounding the decision. Due to this lack of information and criticism from more knowledgeable subordinates, authoritarian decisions are likely to be of lower utility than consultative ones. Self-serving decisions require mitigations such as justifying rationales. This also requires time and effort. Self-serving decision-makers will, therefore, also become more authoritarian. Those with more time or the interests of the organisation and its stakeholders at heart are more likely to be consultative.
  5. Whether the command component is informed or uninformed about the relevant issue. This includes the quality of information received from sub-ordinate components and from the environment. High quality information enables good decisions but requires resources to gather, verify and police.

Any one of these traits is sufficient to affect the quality of decision making. However, several can combine either to have a greater effect or to cancel one another out. The traits are also inter-related with one being sufficient but not necessary to cause the other. For example, a self-serving attitude leads to a tendency to centralise decision making. This in turn can lead to overload. Due to a lack of time to persuade, overload can lead to an authoritarian attitude. This, in turn, due to a lack of consultation, can lead to uninformed decisions. All these factors lead to poor decision making. Furthermore, because there is a causal time lag, their impact steadily degrades the quality of decision making over time. Thus, a self-serving attitude is a highly significant factor in poor decision making, whose effect grows with time. This causal cascade means that leaders, who may initially have only a slightly self-interested attitude, can over time slide down a slippery slope into despotism. A partial solution may be to place a time limit on any command role, as in a true electoral democracy. However, more is required to ensure that we are not ruled by the excessively self-serving.