It's one of those high school debating topics 'That the ends do not justify the means’, and it invites an endless conundrum of situations where the ends might justify the means, like when peace justifies war, or you need to be cruel to be kind.
While most of aren't of the rarefied purity of Gandhi, many of us would strive to create a means that was in alignment with the ends as often as was possible. It makes sense that if we want a peaceful outcome, we need to use peaceful means. If we want an equal, just and thriving society, we need to use means that are equal and just, and create thriving people.
Which is why it is so strange that good people, doing great work, with deeply held values of equality, integrity, humanity, respect etc etc, continually accept and contribute to workplaces that are built on the opposite of equality and justice, namely hierarchies and power over.
I don't doubt that it is hard to change the entrenched culture and systems of power and hierarchy, and it must be difficult, when you have managed to navigate the ladder of disempowerment, and get yourself to the place of the C, whether it is the C suite, middle management or the simple coordinator, to then relinquish power, overhaul the system, and create something equal.
But there is also another reason it doesn’t happen - we don’t believe it’s possible, we can’t imagine a different way. It is the old adage ‘we can’t be what we can’t see’.
We are so embedded in the cage we can’t see it is a cage - the way it is, the hierarchy, is the only way it can be, it’s just the way humans are. Isn’t it?
Of course, good leaders will be compassionate and caring, they’ll listen and seek to empower, but they will reserve rank and pull power when it is necessary, that’s what the ladder does, that’s how it works, that keeps us all safe from incompetence and death by committee, analysis paralysis and circular indecision.
But just as the first person to break the physical four minute mile also shattered the mental four minute mile, bringing in a rush of people who could run a mile under four minutes, there has been a shattering of the ‘hierarchy as essential’ model of organisations.
There is another way for humans to be in collective, in organisations, to collaborate, and thanks to writer like Frederic Laloux, these new ways have been documented in his book ‘Reinventing Organisations’.
And the results are astounding.
It’s not easy, it needs trust, commitment, expertise, processes and help.
But it beggars belief to think we can create a more equal society filled with and using, hierarchical, power nests.
Hierarchies breed defensiveness, de-motivation, inequality, disempowerment, apathy, masking and status management.
Anyone working to make the world a better place, anyone in an organisation with any influence, whether formal or not, can begin to introduce practices and ideas that can slowly allow more humanity, questioning of the status quo and trust into the workplace.
As shared in Laloux’s book there are organisations all around the world leading the way and breaking the organisational mould.
If you want help, or just want to talk about what could be possible in your workplace, get in touch.