Re: Self-organized Learning LO252

Mariann Jelinek (
Sun, 26 Feb 1995 13:25:52 -0500

I liked Jack Hirschfield's questions in LO243:

"What do leaders need to
>do to engender self-organized learning in organizations?" A corollary
>question: "How can people accept authority for their own behavior
>(self-direction) when the authority has been "granted" in a hierarchy
>(empowerment)?" And finally, "If we believe all behavior to be
>essentially self-organizing (as I do) what can we possibly mean by
>leadership, and what is the function of hierarchy?"

Seems to me that the paradox of integrity (be yourself, but do so
in a way not to prevent or impede others from being themselves) is related
to the paradox of learnin organizations: if you organize, you agree to
limit your behaviors somewhat, to be influenced somewhat - yet if you
don't take responsibility, the organization won't work. The willing
suspension of total independence, or perhaps the recognition of dependence
upon others and its benefits, while retaining the obligation to judge, to
assess & ultimately to act independently if required, is what is up here.
Why bother? Because humans are social animals; because coordinated
action and thought can accomplish more than individual action and thought
alone; because the problems we seek to solve or mitigate are bigger than
any one of us can cope with. To engender a learning organization, then,
leaders must induce others to sign on, but to sign on without surrendering
their fundamental integrity (= willingness to offer independent judgment
to the group, and willingness to act responsibly on behalf of the group).
So, IMHO, the "leader" is the orchestrator (not so much the hierarchical
semi-god of past literature), and "leadership" a locus-in-flux, which
changes in response to who has information and insight and can articulate
to draw others in at any moment.
Isn't hierarchy, or hiesrarchical "authority," a convention,
anyway? (Even the Nazis in concentration camps didn't really have
"authority" over Vicktor Frankl .)


Mariann Jelinek
Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business
Graduate School of Business,
College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23185

Tel. (804) 221-2882 FAX: (804) 229-6135