Democratic Enterprise

ballot_box_my_vote_ssk_37571284There are two things that I love about elections. Firstly, everybody is equal. Everybody has one vote, no matter how rich, poor, educated or illiterate they are. Whether they are from the north or south, male or female, everybody has only one vote.

The second thing I love about elections is that it is an opportunity for people to vote for the person that they believe will help them build a better future. For people to believe in political leaders, the candidates have to rise tall in front of the nation, explain what they stand for and what they will do to make those changes happen. They are criticized, scrutinized, challenged and pushed to the limit. However, as a result of all this, people get to know the candidate and how he or she may or may not be their best representative.

Although I think there are some interesting similarities that you can draw with companies (one I have touched upon earlier in CEO Elections), one parallel that I wish leaders of companies would learn from is the communication aspect of elections. Can you imagine the engagement of the whole company, from senior managers to the peon, if leaders in the organization spent the same amount of time as political leaders, in explaining their vision and strategy of the company. If leaders were to allow themselves to be challenged and analyzed then they can come up with a blueprint of the future that everybody in the company strongly believes in and is committed towards.

I have only met a few leaders who actually do this. Safaraz Siddiqui, Managing Director of DHL Pakistan, has spent a lot of time discussing and jointly agreeing with colleagues the way forward for his company, and through this was able to transform DHL (and became the Best Place to Work in Pakistan in the process.) Lynda Gratton, the London Business School Professor wrote one of my favorite books called the Democratic Enterprise in which she “built a roadmap for companies to Liberate their Business with Freedom, Flexibility and Commitment. It delivers the blueprint for a business built on choice and commitment, a business people would choose to work for”.

What do you think? Can you set your company on the path of becoming a Democratic Enterprise?

– Paul Keijzer

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4 thoughts on “Democratic Enterprise

  1. Great post, thank you Paul. In my view forward thinking organizations are becoming more and more transparent, workplace democracy offers a lot of opportunities to find true meaning at work – and it makes bottom line sense too in terms of better morale, higher level of engagement, lower turnover and increased productivity.

    The biggest challenge of course is that managers must learn to let go and develop a different style of leadership that supports the creation of a democratic culture while remain fully focused on business performance – after all result still must come first.

    I personally admire how Tony Hsieh has built up Zappos, a billion dollar online shoe retail company. As Tony puts it:

    ” A democratic workplace for us = Happiness. We choose to practice democracy in the workplace because it not only blurs the line between managers and employees but it also drives the distribution of power, encourages innovation, and helps attract the best talent. It is important that any employee, from our call center to executive team, have the ability to make changes that impact how the organization operates, develops, and grows. We want to see employees at all levels make decisions without having to get a manager or supervisor involved. Running the organization with a lot of freedom offers our employees the time to collaborate and get work done but have fun doing it.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com

  2. Agreed, Use your democratic right by casting your vote do remember change always come with slow pace, most important thing is moving ahead towards change.
    ” Educate the new generation ”
    Hope to See Better & Succesful Pakistan

  3. In any culture, in any relationship, being in business or personal, one word always jumps out – RESPECT! Where there is mutual respect – whether it’s between employer-subordinate, husband-wife, partners, friends, parents, etc., etc., – there is trust. This fosters a positive atmosphere that encourages the ability to help one another succeed. It is a win-win situation for all involved!

  4. Thanks Paul for always giving new perspective. Yes, Democratic Enterprise is the place where people would love to work as they would feel part of the decision making process, at any level in the organization, they may pertain to. They would have the right to ask and challenge fearlessly-without fear of victimization; so they would feel completely engaged in the organization. However, there may be exceptions as well as the corporate leaders at times would have to take decisions in the best interests of the corporations, which at times may be in conflict with popular perception. However, as far as communication is concerned, Enterprises can learn the basic principle of engagement; though our national leaders also have to learn the art of objective communication. Thank you, so much.

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