My most recent book – Hard Times: Leadership in America – was published in October by Stanford University Press. The book explores the impact of context on leadership and followership.

Beginning February 3, I started posting in this space excerpts. They appear here in the order in which they appear in the book.

Excerpt from Chapter 7 – Organizations

“In spite of unanticipated consequences…, and in spite of unending debates about the various virtues and deficits of the flattened hierarchy, in the past several decades the conviction that at least somewhat flatter is at least somewhat better gradually took hold. In 1980, fewer than 20 percent of companies on the Fortune 1000 list claimed at least some sort of team management structure. By 1990, it was 50 percent, and by 2000 it was 80 percent. Obviously, not every organization adapted in ways that ultimately were meaningful. Moreover, even now many and maybe even most organizations retain rather a rigidly hierarchical governance structure – not so distant from [Max] Weber’s original conception. Gradually, however, there evolved the conventional wisdom that even the most hidebound organizations would do well to be somewhat flatter in the future than they had been in the past. Even the most hidebound organizations were advised to ‘flatten their informal channels of communication and influence, which all management theory admits are as important … as an organization’s formal structures.’”


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