I recently read a summary of a study on the “unstoppable power of leaderless organizations.” It was authored by two academics that wrote it in a style that suggested they believe they should be put on a pedestal for this astounding work. The report sings the praises of “starfish-like” organizational structures that are totally decentralized and completely dependent on peer-to-peer relationships. They claimed this inherent flexibility would lead to a big positive impact on the management of projects and the discovery of knowledge.
In this study, one of the classic quotes is “the tasks of management – setting direction and objectives, planning, directing, controlling, and evaluating – haven’t disappeared. They are simply no longer concentrated in dedicated management roles.” By dispersing these responsibilities, “more management and leadership will happen because of the absence of full-time managers.” Quite a claim, given the authors had no evidence or theory to back it.
Here is my advice. Don’t hire this guy to run that key project your success is dependent on! Let’s face it, this kind of so-called research can only see the light of day in a purely academic setting.
Here is another example. In the American Sociological Review, a professor reported on his research concerning the question “what are the attributes that professional services organizations are looking for in selecting who to hire?”
The “research” was based on only about 100 interviews among what the author called “working professionals.” He summarized it in this way: “Interviewers consciously lower the technical bar for candidates with whom they had a great spark.” He indicated the following comment he collected was representative of what he learned: “You can be the smartest guy ever, but I don’t care. I need to be comfortable working every day with you…and then going out for a beer.”
Again, this doesn’t deserve to be called research. Let’s face it…when businesses go out to hire, if they are serious about beating their competition, I can guarantee you they are looking for hard-charging, smart candidates that have a track record of accomplishment in whatever they pursued.
So…what is the learning here? Don’t Believe Everything You Read – These days many writers/academics tend to be too politically correct and avoid the notion that courageous leadership is an asset. Also, some of the “research” is of shaky quality (such as the examples above).