The Nerf Bat

I’m fortunate enough to be connected with a gentleman on LinkedIn named Dr. Barry Brownstein. Dr. Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore and the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. His essays have appeared in publications such as the Foundation for Economic Education and Intellectual Takeout.

Dr. Brownstein recently wrote an article for the American Institute for Economic Research — “Taming the Dictator Within, Part 1” — in which he cited the disconnect between leaders’ political views and their leadership styles. He wrote this:

Some understood that central planning is a failed approach to economic policy and yet did not understand that strict hierarchical management practices often cause businesses to run inefficiently and unhappily. Employees don’t enjoy being ordered around or feeling blocked from using and developing their skills.

In other words, invitation is better than domination. I’ll explain.

The Culture Effect

Hierarchies are inevitable because they’re effective for ensuring structure and order. But organizational hierarchies need not be rigid or imperious. They need not work against cultures of cooperation and innovation. They need not preclude senses of trust, security, and fulfillment. In fact, hierarchies can foster and nurture healthy and productive cultures. As I wrote in an earlier post:

Culture is not a cause. It’s an effect. It’s a symptom, a result. It’s the product of treating individuals with respect, of giving them senses of belonging, of encouraging their participation, of giving them responsibility and the commensurate decision-making authority.

Studies have shown people in organizations in which they’re not beaten over the head are happier, more productive, and more willing to contribute in ways that exceed their positions, their titles, and the expectations their organizations have for them. They also suffer fewer concussions.

Choose Wisely

Louisville Slugger

Nerf Bat

A Nerf Bat is much more effective leadership tool than a Louisville Slugger.

It’s a much better tool for creating cultures of innovation — of experimentation, of willingness to fail, of determination to learn from failure, of consistent accomplishment, of fulfillment and gratification, and of collegial collaboration — than a Louisville Slugger. The Louisville Slugger will instill more fear, raise more lumps, and cause more serious cranial injuries. But the Nerf Bat will instill feelings of safety wellbeing. And it’ll ensure people will have a greater willingness to contribute and to take chances.

A famous expression says, “No pressure, no diamonds.” That’s true, of course. But human beings are only about 18 percent carbon, give or take. They aren’t refined or rarefied by constant pressure. Rather, they’re wounded and defeated. People who are wounded and defeated will never be innovative. They’ll only be wounded and defeated.

That’s no way to treat people. And it’s no way to run a successful organization.

Use the Nerf Bat. Save the Louisville Slugger for the baseball diamond.

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