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Untitled Document
Management, Motivation and Power
Dr. Akmal Hussain
Newspaper: The Daily Times
Dated: Thursday, December 18, 2003

In a competitive environment, the motivation and creative ability of individuals within an organization is often the key to its success. The challenge of management is to actualize and harness the creative potential of individuals within the organization. This is true for all high performance organizations whether firms in a market economy or organizations directly seeking public welfare. (e.g. NGOs for poverty alleviation). The problem is that the motivation and creative development of individuals is rooted in freedom, while the functioning of most organizations is based on power. This raises the question of the balance between autonomy and control in the context of management.

Power in sociological theory refers to the ability to induce actions in others, which are not necessarily in their own perceived interests. This particular form of power is usually pursued through the coordinated and systematic actions of an organized group of people. The organization binds individuals within it to observe specific procedures designed to achieve organizational goals. (See for example Hayek). The observance of required behaviour of individuals within an organization is induced through a set of incentives to comply with commands/procedures (e.g. salary increase and promotion) and disincentives for violating them (e.g. fines, demotion or dismissal). In this sense control is essential to the exercise of power both in terms of those external to the organization on whom power is exercised and those internal to it, through whom power is exercised.

The problem with this type of organization arises when the achievement of the organizational objectives involves the imagination, inventive thought and motivation of its individual members. This is particularly the case when organizations are engaged in difficult tasks such as profit seeking firms in cutting edge fields or academic institutions engaged in research, or NGOs engaged in social mobilization for poverty alleviation.

How can we construct an organization consisting of autonomous individuals engaged in creative action for organizational goals? Such an organization would need to pursue power not in the sense of control but in the sense of human liberation. Its members would be driven not by fear within hierarchic procedures but would be self-motivated to achieve shared goals. The motivation of individuals would be sought through the prospect of a share in the gains of the organization. The commitment to the corporate identity of the organization would be drawn from the sense that the individual’s material welfare is linked with achieving overall corporate goals. Equally important would be the awareness that the organization enables the professional and creative development of the individual.

Such an organization is not an abstract entity defined by depersonalized procedures. Rather the organization is constituted by its members and acquires meaning through their collective functioning. This principle makes it possible for each individual regardless of her/his specific role within the organization, to become the unique centre of thought and initiative while at the same time being in synergistic interaction with the team.

Such an organizational culture when translated into work procedures would allow periodic individual reflection together with collective reflection, just as it would enable individual initiative together with collective effort. Thus, autonomy would become consistent with teamwork, control replaced by self-motivation and power defined in terms of individual development in harmony with organizational development.

What then would be the role of a manager in an organization characterized by self-actualizing, self-motivated individuals pursuing shared goals? In this context we may draw the distinction between a messianic leader (See David Cooper) and what can be called a faqirana leader. The messianic leader/manager/teacher claims to embody the truth. If his followers/subordinates/students want to become something they can only be his shadows. By contrast, the faqirana leader/manager/teacher is one who abnegates his own exceptionality and recognizes each individual as the unique origin of change. Such a leader enters into a journey with each of her/his ‘followers’, helps identify their aptitude and potential, and then nurtures their individual and collective development in the process of articulating and achieving organizational goals.

Just as the respective management approaches of the messianic and faqirana leaders are quite different, in the same way the organizational design associated with these approaches would also be quite distinct. The organizational structure reflecting the messianic approach is hierarchic and restricts the space for independent thinking. Its work procedures involve issuing instructions or blindly implementing them. By contrast the organizational structure associated with the faqirana approach is non-hierarchic, designed to provide space for thought and action by autonomous individuals in collegial interaction. Its work procedures instead of being a simple dichotomy between instructions and compliance are designed for mutually fertilizing dialogues, action and collective reflection.

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