In Hindi, there is a saying “Akal Badi ya Bhains” ( अकल बड़ी या भेंस ), which quite literally means, “Is Intelligence bigger than the Buffalo?”. And it isn’t a question actually, it is more of a rhetoric, highlighting the importance of Intelligence and how Intelligence is bigger and much more powerful than size and brute force.
Taking the metaphor to organisations and groups, with no aim of denigrating the leader by relating him/her to a Bull or a Buffalo – the metaphor can translate as, “Is the Group Intelligence bigger and better than that of a Leader alone”.
Systems theory tells us that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. Which in the group context means that the Intelligence of the group is more than the intelligence of individuals put together and even that of the Leader. This sounds so counter-intuitive to the widely accepted social norm (and most management theories), which almost eulogies the leader.
Most management theories and trainings focus on individuals and how to make better Leaders. Well, this complete leader oriented focus has caused more damage than benefits.
And the damage is two folds – damage to the Group and damage to the Leader.
To the Group (and society at large), it induces a dependency on the Leader. The group members look towards the Leader to give solutions and directions – as if they don’t have any power and intelligence to lead. A treatise can be written on the impact of this dependency in groups and society. As a consequence, the group members give-away their own power and also undermine the power of others in the group, leading to less creativity, more compliance, dependent or counter-dependent behaviour, resistance, etc.
Group Relationship theories tell us that the collective intelligence of the group is far more powerful than what individuals can achieve. Also, when the group comes together, it brings the systemic perspective (entire system in the room), which has the potential to look at the systems holistically and the solutions hence found are not point fixes or symptomatic fixes but deeper answers. And from a Change management perspective, when the group builds the solution, there is a Buy-In and Ownership into the solution and the change process is far more acceptable and eased out.
The damage in this leader centric focus is for the Leader too.
Most leaders internalize this socially created image of “The Leader” and start to believe that he/she “has to” fit into this role and unconsciously tries to live up to this larger than life image of a Super Man – One who should know everything, one who should have all the solutions and one who can never be wrong – Phew! – Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient and hence goes on the path of trying to achieve the impossible.
He/she starts to live a very hard life, trying to achieve the un-achievable target of being the super hero. It is a struggle all through; a tiring and an exhausting process. And a de-humanizing process too – where the Leader while trying to live up to this super hero image tends to hide his weakness and vulnerabilities and starts to live “the role” and loses the person he/she is.
He/she also also feeds into the dependency model of the team and world in general, reinforcing it and actually ends up being the Bull / Buffalo.
Have you seen any Bulls around?