The workplace of tomorrow

by 21cstories

Buzz words like leaders, leadership, and training leaders of tomorrow are very popular and can be encountered everywhere, from schools and colleges to large corporations. Work is now seen as being done by teams led by team leaders rather than an individual completing a fixed job in his or her individual capacity.

The idea behind team building and leadership seems to be that work can be done rightly and efficiently by gathering a team or group led by a leader. If there is a group then there must also be someone who is their leader – who supervises a team of followers, provides goals, shows the way, takes action, solves problems, keeps the morale high, resolves internal issues, and gets the work done. So fashionable is the term leader that its corollary, followers, is seen by some as unrelated, associating it rather with a team.

What properties or abilites describe a ‘leader’? A leader is someone who takes the lead, normally in social situations that involve a group task. Searching the Internet for schools that claim to train leaders, one comes across properties of leaders described in terms like  – commanding authority, setting a vision, etc.

The cocept of teams and leaders is much like that of a small, primitive tribal group, a group of children, or an army unit. The leader is the chief of the ‘tribal group’ – the team. It reminds one so much of a group of small children with a head as the leader. This way of organising work takes us straight back to our childhood days, except that instead of roaming outside, the team works in an office.

Is it not the ground reality that those who are the strongest, the strictest, the meanest, the ruthless types whom everyone is afraid of, happen to be the ones who get to control and lead a team? The soft, the weak, the leniant would make for weak leaders that no one would obey. The strong rule the weak in the modern world, as perhaps they always did. 

Offices today resemble small, closed groups, or an extended family, rather than formal places where one could finish the day’s work and go home. The model is that of a small tribal team, the family, a home, or a joint family. Getting a job does not mean just that, but becoming a member of any of these groups. These are the models that define the modern workplace, so much so that when a company goes overseas, it does not disturb these underlying models as part of strategy.

It is true that an individual can not work in isolation, as much as he or she can live in such a condition. Yet, we do live independently, entering into exchanges with others for mutual benefit, one of these being our job itself. A similar model at the workplace can transform it into an open group, like a large society where work is done, or rather, services exchanged, with the greatest degree of freedom and least interference.

Jan 7, 2007