What this book is not about
If you enter the word 'management' in the search engine of a well-known mail-order bookshop, guess how many books would be shown? Five thousand? Fifty thousand?
In actual fact, it would be more than five hundred thou-sand. Just imagine book shelves for more than half a mil-lion books! Everything on this subject must have been said already, which raises the question: why on earth should you bother to read this book at all? The first answer is: be-cause it omits a lot.
For that reason, it is essential to state at the very begin-ning what this book is not about. It is not about a new lead-ership mode. Many authors only address specific aspects of managerial work and do so in great detail - but the overall picture remains blurred. A large number of books (includ-ing my early works) also lay claim to relatively abstract aspects of value in order to criticize management structures which actually exist for the sake of what ought to be. There-fore you will not find a whole collection of anecdotes, no examples of excellent management and no limitless range of strategies to be learned and implemented. Nor do I speculate on a possible connection between management styles, personality traits and managerial success. No dis-tinction is made between leadership and management. I assume that most managers interact with their employees, i.e. lead and that most staff at managerial level also carry out tool-based administrative tasks, in other words, manage. Moreover, a leader who possesses no management skills will soon run out of steam; a manager with no leadership skills lacks direction. At the same time I do not distinguish between staff orientation and task orientation. In practice this distinction is artificial - both are necessary.
What exactly is this book about then?
In order to answer this question I would like to give a few biographical details. In my search for what is really crucial in leadership, I decided to gain some practical experience once again. For a period of three and a half years I assumed op-erational responsibility in the executive committee of a company which generates a turnover of approximately 21 billion euro in almost eighty countries. I wished to experi-ence the daily routine of management again, separate the wheat from the chaff and the indispensible from the merely desirable.
I learned much about what executives do, but more than that, I learned what they do not do; what they in fact left out - because they considered it to be irrelevant or they simply did not wish to or were unable to do it. This, in turn, helped me to concentrate on the essentials.
At the same time I realized more and more that the ac-tual tasks to be performed are not discussed by the execu-tives but are taken for granted: 'It isn't necessary for me to take care of these, as well - after all I am already an execu-tive because my boss thinks I am equal to the tasks.' They do not see their actions in a wider context; they just 'man-age,' which means that they muddle through. Thinking about what they are doing is only disruptive. And even if they do reflect on their actions, then this is only in connec-tion with HOW, with adjectives such as 'co-operative,' 'dialogic' or even 'transforming'- but not with WHAT, whereby this WHAT is by no means obvious. In fact, it meets with astonishment when it is mentioned. These are not trifles which can be ignored. On the contrary! It is pre-cisely this blind spot in most executives which I wish to address. Therefore: leadership is the answer - what was that question you asked? Can you repeat it?
At the same time I take the following situation as a start-ing point: a group of people have got together for a specific purpose. It does not take long before someone establishes himself as the leader and depending on the size of the group and how long it has been in existence, leadership structures also evolve. Why? What are the 'reasons' for leadership, reasons which arise from facts and not from arbitrary objectives? What is the problem to which leader-ship is the answer?
I am convinced that the tasks involved in leadership are universals - they will still be the same in many hundreds of years. After all, leadership has always existed - ever since people have lived in groups. Nor can I imagine the new world of networks and heterarchies without leadership. On the contrary: people long for nothing more than a powerful idea of leadership and a person who personifies this. For that reason we can speak of an 'archaeo', a first principle, on which 'archaeo-logy' focuses and explores. In any case, it seems to me that the search for sound 'reasons' for lead-ership even in times of contingency and the absence of the final reason has not been called off.
I would, therefore, like to get to the bottom of leadership on the basis of archaeology and offer examples of its practi-cal application. And although the choice, of course, is con-nected to an unavoidable factor of subjectivity, it is by no means arbitrary but lays claim to the status of necessity - for that is the basic experience in the history of humanity where in the end so little changes and yet where almost everything has changed.
At the same time, anyone speaking of 'radical leader-ship' has to expect to be misunderstood. In this country and in times of politically correct ambiguity, it is possible to be anything you like, but one thing you may not be and that is radical. This proviso, however, fails to recognize the origin of the word: the Latin word 'radix' means 'the root'. In the case of radical leadership it is a question of the root of leadership - in which it is firmly grounded and from which it develops. An executive who really wishes to make changes within a company has to start at the root. The in-numerable initiatives for change fail because they - to stick to the imagery - remain on the surface and do not get down to grass roots. They would succeed if they were rooted in the core tasks of leadership.
Human beings within the organization
When I ask: 'What is the problem to which leadership is the answer?' I am deliberately speaking of leadership - and I do not just mean executives. Leadership is more than mere action by individuals. Leadership also finds expres-sion in structures, instruments and institutions - in other words in organization. No one ever starts right at the very beginning. Something already exists and it is into this that you step and take from there.
This book is to convey the strength of the ego in the indi-vidual and the management of structures by the organiza-tion. In fact, it is not possible to make either of these disap-pear entirely (not even in a totalitarian system). I wish to do justice to both aspects because I am convinced that they are not mutually exclusive and that the stand taken in defence of the one or the other is artificial.
Consequently, I am going to outline, first of all, the insti-tutional framework as a requirement for leadership with respect to each of the core tasks of leadership and in a sec-ond step define the individual attributes which are suitable for the fulfilment of these management tasks.
The experienced reader will ask me: Is there anything new in your book? Permit me to answer with a question: When has anything new ever been written? It wouldn't be the first time that I considered an idea to be new and then I read something similar or even identical in some old book. Genuine originality is extremely rare. It is not the content but the choice of words and the form of the presentation which make it appear original.
Nevertheless, in reply to the question about something new: Naturally I am following up on what I have already expressed in earlier books. However, it must be said: never before has there been a book which aims to delineate the core tasks of leadership archaeologically. There has never been a book which gives a comprehensive account of the timeless and essential aspects of leadership by imparting systemic guidelines and individual attributes. Therefore, anyone using this book as a basis for leadership will be a radical leader because he knows the roots of leadership. There-fore, I hope that what I write will be a seed which forms new roots.