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This does not, though, make every manager or company owner a Gaddafi-like dictator. Power is by definition amoral. It is there to be used and it can be used for doing good as well as evil. In the 1990s, an American management scholar, Robert Greenleaf, introduced a concept known as servant leadership. In this approach to leadership, the leader – still organisationally appointed and not elected – sees him/herself as a servant of the company and its staff, with the role of leading from the bottom, almost. In the 1980s when Jan Carlson was appointed CEO of Scandinavian Airline Systems, his famously recorded first act as CEO was to turn the organisation chart upside down on its head. The chart became an inverted triangle with Jan at the very bottom. He explained this action by stating that “if you are not serving the customer, you are serving someone who is.” Here is a classic case of the servant leadership concept, even though this idea was not even thought of at that time. This action of an inverted organisational chart did not make Carlson a “soft leader”. He still had the power of a CEO but he chose to use it in a different way. For instance, he is equally famous for calling up pilots in the cockpit of any aircraft that were still on the tarmac for more than 15 minutes after the scheduled takeoff time, especially since a key results area for SAS was on how punctual it was with its takeoff times. It can be seen that this business model for SAS foreshadows the current business models of budget airlines like Virgin and Air Asia. In fact, a soft leader can be a liability to an organisation.

reinforced. Dictators are clearly on top of the world with the unlimited power and money they have and this indeed may well be the case for small-medium size business owners. An example of a dictatorial mindset at work is when an owner of a company drives a large flashy car while the workers – who are the actual income earners for the company – resort to alternative means of transportation, like public transport or smaller vehicles.

.....the words “ command and control

describe a set of management practices that verge on being dictatorial and a style of management that is exclusively directed downwards....

In command and in control It is interesting to note that the second definition of power cited above links the two words “command” and “control”. These words are often linked in management literature to describe a set of management practices that verge on being dictatorial. It is a style of management that was prevalent until the end of last century and no management writer in the last ten years has spoken of command and control management with anything but distaste. It is regarded as a style of management that is exclusively directed downwards. If an order is given it is expected that it will be obeyed. Sadly, this form of management style is still quite common in Asia, especially in companies that are owner-managed. Command and control is a mindset that underpins management actions, in the same way that dictators have a mindset that underpins theirs. If a certain mindset brings results that are pleasing to the individual, then the ideology has been



MAY 2011

Conclusion Hence, to summarise, managers and company owners have much in common with political dictators since being in power can be used for doing both good or evil. It is in fact less likely that workers will rebel against their bosses, but if it does happen it will likely result in a manager being removed from his/ her position. Though workers have the option of leaving a company managed by a dictatorial manager, many of them will probably not leave because, perhaps, the only working experience they might have had is with command and control

managers. The critical factor is being in power. Do managers have power over their staff? To some extent they do. They are able to make decisions about their staff and they are able to do this with impunity and, sometimes, on the most tenuous of pretexts. In conclusion, there are two things that are worth remembering: • S t a f f d o n o t l e a v e c o m p a n i e s o n t h e i r o w n accord, they are probably driven to leave by bad managers. • If your staff had the opportunity to elect you as their manager/leader, how do you think they would vote? ◆

Acknowledgement: Bob is an English-born New Zealander who has lived in Asia for the past 20 years. He has been in the field of human resources his entire working life and has been a management consultant since 1980. Most recently, he has been functioning as an ideas broker, which means reading widely, mining new ideas and linking them with ideas already mined, then sharing them with managers and companies that are interested in keeping themselves at the cutting edge. Bob shares ideas on his free blog at

PRA May 2011  

Plastics and Rubber Asia May 2011 Electronic Issue

PRA May 2011  

Plastics and Rubber Asia May 2011 Electronic Issue