Politics & Management: different worlds or not exactly !!
Does the world of political ideologies touch, impact and shape management thoughts of its times?
May be it does – in fathomable and unfathomable ways. Post the two world wars, management got impacted with the flirtations of global political systems with the two poles of political formations – Communism and Capitalism. The fortunes of these two swung with times, with the general opinion in favour or capitalism, beginning the second half of the twentieth century and certainly gaining momentum towards the last two decades.
One can argue that the intellectual and philosophical basis in favour of globalisation emerged from these ideological beliefs. The notions of rationality of capital, freedom of consumer choice, laissez fare and a general bias towards the primacy of individual rights to hold thoughts, respect for his belief, tolerance to dissent, accommodation for alternative narratives etc got further strength with the concurrent rise of democratic and liberal political systems. A lot of what is known as management or leadership literature today was also generated during those momentous 5-7 decades and one finds some patterns in most of them as basic bedrock – around respect for individuals, allowing space for minority thought, co-creation, bottoms up, so on and so forth. Since the world of leadership literature borrows liberally from the research in humanities, we know that organisations are microcosms of what is the society.
Last few years have seen interesting twists and turns in what were considered as truisms for a very long time. The ideological basis for globalisation for instance is shaken. Country after country is flirting with a different shade of political ideology. The left of the centre, liberal, open border-open window space is no longer sacrosanct. The right of all hues – from a moderate right to a more virulent form of it is gaining traction. Barriers to free movement of capital, people are either being erected or at least being talked about like no other time in the recent past.
The question to consider is this – can a mass shift in political ideology spill over to corporations? Does it have the potential to generate a new kind of beliefs around leadership? If the ethos of the liberal left of yore indeed leave an impression on management philosophies and hence played a role in deciding the policies governing workforce management and Leadership practices, then will the movement towards a political right have an equal probability of impacting management thought and leadership behaviour?
Systems thinking believe that everything is related to everything else and a small change in one has the power to create a large impact somewhere else. Political ideologies are just too impactful to ignore – and any tectonic and decisive shift in them can be ignored only to our peril. There are models around behaviours, change, leadership etc that we use, sometimes a tad too literally – forgetting that those may have been influenced by the spirit of the times that they were created. No wonder that too much of echoing and supporting of the mainstream view is called ‘political correctness’.
So here are the bit for reflection – if the mood of the world is gauged through its polity – then what does these shifts indicate about the next few decades about that one question that all organisations continue to ask – ‘’What do our people want?’’
First Published in ''Peoples Matter'' April 2017 issue