Re: Shared Authority LO2054

Barry Mallis (
12 Jul 1995 08:09:53 -0400

Replying to LO2039 --

Reply to: RE>Shared Authority LO2039

Lue Ann:

Here's only one reason why in organizations of many kinds (such as the
business where I work) sharing power can be threatening.

Vestment of authority remains a traditional, implicit activity for the
vast majority of organizations. While there are management training
sessions conducted in my company, such as "Eyeball-to-Eyeball", where
managers try role-playing in speaking with their reports about a variety
of sticky personnel issues, the follow up over time is virtually
non-existent. The permanent consultant to the company has not the time or
intention or whatever to continue support through follow-up consultation
with individuals in the hot seat.

These managers are imbued with the sense that they have for the most part
been promoted because they have proven they are trustworthy, loyal,
helpful, obedient, and thrifty, showing reverence for the company cause.

"Now Son, now Daughter, here's the banner. Take it into the field and
hold it high. Be proud." This tremendous simplification of the passing
of power to new managers who then exercise it leaves much to be desired.
Yes, I recognize best-in-class companies where managers DO get very
comprehensive and continuous training in managing. But these are too few
and far between.

Managers don't like to share power becuase then "someone" will ask why the
power is necessary in the first place. Often that "someone" is an inner,
tradition- or history-bound voice which says to be powerful and effective,
one cannot share, one can only delegate effectively. Sharing leads to
usurpation of power, then to dilution of impetus, then to dissolution of
direction, then to complete failure.

I would venture to sya that this is a two-way problem. There are intenral
voices in those who are led which counsel against taking power--for the
very reasons I state above! The paradox is that these misplaced internal
voices (please understand these voices are subtle, and only a part of the
total background "sound" we hear in our heads) feed one another in a
vicious cycle.

Senge would draw circles. Nobody wants to make bad decisions. Money,
business, jobs are at stake. Ironically, shared decision-making lowers
risk fallout.

These are pretty obvious thoughts. I don't think it takes much reading to
figure it out up front. And the greatest tool I have ever heard about to
reverse this nasty trend is still openness and communication among those
involved--about the very subject itself. I am one who strangely believes
that speaking truth among the parties involved is the principal way to
change the behavior. Stereotypes are shattered. Hidden wells of
resourcefulness appear. Innuendo diminishes. I have seen this happen with
my own eyes in my own company in isolated cases.

It's all very hard, though, because of the great fear up front. So,
that's what I think.

Barry Mallis