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The Leadership Disconnect

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or
mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands
fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus,
everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
— Vicktor Frankl

Frankl’s view of human existence cherishes individual uniqueness
and the singular importance of each person’s contributions. Few would argue
with his view of the essential value of each person and of each person’s work.
Even so, most approaches to organization and to management are notably
antithetical to Frankl’s conception. Exploring the disconnect between belief
and application can be instructive.

Most contemporary approaches to organization and management are
based on mission and process. The mission is the super-ordinate outcome which
is, in turn, reduced to goals or sub-outcomes that collectively represent
achievement of the mission. Processes are developed to achieve these
sub-outcomes. People are then recruited to implement the processes. The
recruits are, thus, expected to fill pre-defined roles, accept carefully
limited responsibilities, and meet relatively fixed performance requirements.

Once people have opted to participate in this structure management literature
offers a variety of strategies for maximizing performance. For example, Thomas
J. Watson observed, “I believe the real difference between success and
failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well
the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.”
One may assume that those great energies and talents are in the interest of
supporting the organization’s pre-defined processes. Lee Iacocca asserted,
“Management is nothing more than motivating other people.” Here too, the point
is to support the organization’s established processes. Brian Tracy uses a
slightly different strategy but the purpose is unchanged. “Practice Golden-Rule
1 of Management in everything you do. Manage others the way you would like to
be managed.” Perhaps an alternative would be managing people the way they would
like to be managed; but either way, the point remains to support the
organization’s processes.

An alternative understanding of an organization and its people
is possible. Start with a mission articulated by whoever wants to achieve a
given super-ordinate outcome. This may be an individual, a group, a government,
or a community. Define the tasks involved in and the skills needed to achieve
the mission. Now only recruit people whose specific vocation or mission in life
is supportive of and compatible with the organization’s mission and the skills
needed to achieve that mission. You have no interest in people who are simply
interested in a job, no matter how hard they will work. If you are going to
produce milk, only hire people who love cows, have worked hard to have a career
in dairy farming, and who are vitally concerned about the nutrition of people,
especially children. Having hired the individual, discuss the tasks that need
done and then delegate those that represent “a concrete assignment that demands
fulfillment” both for the new employee and the organization. Repeat the process
until there are enough people associated with the enterprise to handle all
necessary tasks and successfully pursue achieving the organization’s mission.
Thus, “everyone’s task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement
it.” Frankl would be proud of you. Just smile and use a few of Immanuel Kant’s
words to let everyone know that you “always recognize that human
individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.”

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