As a special treat for the readership of VeraSage, I present the following book review by my friend and mentor, Howard Hansen. Howard was the vice president of human resources for Great Plains Software in its heyday. Great Plains was featured as one of Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Companies to Work For for several years and Howard played a big part in that recognition.
I’ve been reading Ayn Rand and Business, a new offering by authors Donna Greiner and Theodore Kinni (Texere). Rand’s theory of objectivism – best articulated in the famous John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged – has a committed following. Ayn Rand and Business explores objectivism and attempts to tie its principal tenants to contemporary business issues. While objectivism’s rigidity can be uncomfortable – Rand demanded a cult like adherence to her beliefs and followers who strayed were sometimes exiled – there are characteristics of the philosophy which fit well with effective business concepts.
Notable is the power of shared values, a carefully selected and articulated list of behaviors employees are expected to follow in all situations.
Rand believed in always exercising rational thought above and before emotion. She argued that the key values supporting rationality are: Independence, Integrity, Honesty and Justice. Authors of Ayn Rand and Business explore definitions of these terms with interesting insight. I plan to suggest these values for consideration to my clients who use shared values in their organizations and take them seriously enough to review, revise and define them.
There are a couple of more nuggets to explore from this book. One is the view managers must take of employees in the Randian World. Another is how Objectivism and Healing Leadership link together.
The authors write that Rand had ideas about the relationship between employee and employer. She believed in three basic ideas:
- Employees work for themselves not their employer.
- Mutual respect and voluntary cooperation are foundational to successful employee-employer relationships.
- There is only one correct way to judge employee performance and that is on “rational merit”.
The idea that employees work for themselves and not for a company or organization is dramatic. It suggests there is no value in traditional management approaches to improving individuals’ performance. And it certainly defines the still too frequently used method of “management by intimidation” as ineffective at best and harmful at worst. The authors write, “Outright physical violence has largely disappeared as a management strategy (in today’s organizations), but less-overt forms of force are still in evidence. Some managers resort to verbal intimidation and threats to motivate employees.”
Which brings us to Healing Leadership. I have long held that leaders need to see themselves as healers in their organizations. Employees in pain, especially pain created by their experiences as employees, are distracted, unhappy and generally unsuccessful at their work. Bosses need to see these traps and help their employees spring themselves.
Often this unhappiness is driven by fear. This fear can be created by a toxic environment whose ingredients are both obvious and subtle.
The authors of Ayn Rand and Business quote W. Edwards Deming: “Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” This behavior, “driving out fear”, is a rational objective. It is undertaken to create higher performance through the establishment of a “rational, objective atmosphere of trust, mutual respect, and freedom at work.”
More of Howard’s writings can be found at www.healingleaders.com. Please take a few moments to visit this very different site.