From Leadership to Communityship

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Management expert Henry Mintzberg discusses the importance of community in a balanced society and in developing impactful leaders.
Henry Mintzberg, Management Speaker and Author
  • The government and business sectors are highly visible areas of society today, but to help balance our support of society, we need to also prioritize the plural, or community, sector. 
  • The term “communityship” helps convey the idea that leadership should not be individualistic but should instead focus on groups. 
  • We are all a part of the plural sector, and helping students understand this concept can help them become better managers. 

Transcript

Henry Mintzberg: [0:15] Exactly 30 years ago, around this month, I went to Prague. I went there just two years after the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

[0:30] In the West, we had that all explained. We said that capitalism had triumphed. This was a cold war between communism and capitalism, and capitalism won. It didn't look to me like that at all in Prague.

[0:43] Right there and then I thought, "Capitalism didn't triumph, balance triumphed." The Eastern European countries were utterly out of balance on the side of their public-sector governance. Utterly out of balance. Whereas, the countries in the West were much more balanced. The successful countries in the West were much more balanced.

[1:08] Let me say a word about balance. You can't balance a stool on one leg. I don't care if it's communism or capitalism or populism. You can't balance a stool on one leg.

[1:19] You can't balance a stool on two legs. We've been trying to do that in the liberal democracies between markets and government, between left and right, and so on and so forth, and we get pendulum politics, or some kind of freezing, paralysis in the middle.

[1:39] You need a third leg. It was quite evident in Prague, back then and ever since, that the third leg is community. You've got government, you've got business, and you've got community. The trouble is we recognize that sector by all kinds of names, and because we have so many names, we don't recognize it.

[2:01] We call it civil society. We call it not-for-profits, or we call it the social sector. We call it NGOs. If you collect all those things together, you've got a huge sector. We live in the plural sector. Every single one of us. There's not a person on this screen who probably hasn't interacted with five or ten plural sector associations in the last few days.

One of my problems with teaching management to young people who haven't managed is management is a practice, and you need experience.

[2:28] We can start with AACSB. It's not government. It's not private. It's plural. It's an association.

[2:35] I come from McGill University. It's not public. It's not private. It's a plural sector association. We're all part of the plural sector. That means, whether we're business school deans, or students in business schools, or anything else, we are part of the plural sector.

[2:52] One of my problems with teaching management to young people who haven't managed is management is a practice, and you need experience. You can learn marketing, you can learn finance, you can learn accounting, but you can't learn management without managing any more than you can learn swimming without getting in the pool.

[3:13] A lot of students don't bring that experience, but everybody brings experience in the plural sector. They all belong to clubs. They all work out at the Y. They all have family things.

[3:25] Like everybody else, they're interacting constantly with plural sector organizations, but they don't know it because they don't have the label, or they don't have that understanding.

[3:36] That's easy to convey to them. Once you convey it to them, it's a question of what can you do as a dean, as faculty, and as students themselves.

Organization is about groups of people. An effective organization is not a collection of human resources, it's a community.

[3:46] Leadership has become such a hyped-up thing, so I coined the term "communityship."

[3:57] With the idea that leadership's very individualistic. Leadership's about me. Even if I'm generous and benevolent and everything else, leadership is about individuals. Organization is about groups of people. An effective organization is not a collection of human resources, it's a community.

[4:15] If every time you say leadership, if you think communityship instead, in other words, if you want to slingshot, not to aim it at leadership, but to project communityship and convey the message to the students who in turn can carry it out, that effective organizations function as communities.

[4:41] Just as effective business schools function as communities, and we know full well, one class varies from another enormously because some classes just get together as communities. It's not about single leaders in the class. Some classes just bond, and they function very well together.

[5:00] I think we have impact in two respects. We have impact in what our students carry out, and how they behave once they're out. We can either train them to be narrow, or we can train them to be broad. We can train them to be concerned about social issues.

[5:18] Going way back, we've always had courses and concerns about training the right kinds of managers, but we've also sent them out sometimes thinking that, somehow being detached is OK as a manager, and it's not OK.

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