The anti-system voice and the greasy path for leaders and organisations

In our custom apolitical manner, the Effectiveness lab in this blog juxtaposes the anti-system influence in recent French politics against the politics of the modern organisation.

We hope leaders listen to us, as this is something that brings leaders down all the time. The disregard and complacency towards the foe within your organisational eco-system, usually, till it’s too late is something to avoid.  The latter is politics at organisations, and not everyone wants or is skilled at political games – but from time to time, politics we have to play.

Organisation eco-systems: family, nation-state, and even the church have the anti-system voice whose sole mandate is to oppose the ruling order and status quo. What the system in power does, right or wrong, is rubbished by the anti-system block.

Let’s not get annoyed by the block – it’s in their nature and job to oppose, annoy and want to shift power from one block to the other. Some aren’t even willing to take on power but broker it for cronies. And yes, even at the traditional organisation, that many of you don’t consider political, there is politics and dangerously at that, only that it’s subtle.

About 50% or more of the French electorate are anti-system, and they don’t believe in the philosophy and direction the political class in the driving seat are taking the country. In the early stages of the last campaigns, the French anti-system vote, albeit from various political blocks, was more significant than the incumbent’s.

And while by the conclusion of the second round, Macron’s heavily disdained economic reformist agenda managed to outmanoeuvre Marie le Pen’s far-right policy agenda, Macron kept his job not because the majority voted for him but because the anti-system blocks didn’t have common ground apart from being antiestablishment. Be it as it may, they helped to get Macron in.

At the end of it all, the anti-system actions helped maintain the political status quo in Europe’s only nuclear power nation, and credit goes to Macron’s camp for getting the game plan right especially in the latter stages of the campaign. There are lessons in this for those of you leading organisations. Get your politics right, and please don’t disregard matters politics.

But, do you, the CEO, play politics and right at that?

When the anti-system voice is allowed to dominate the discourse, plus segue into the ‘positive influencing’ space, it tends to neutralise the conformists and force organisation ideology repositioning – the anti-establishment then becomes established and normal.

Therefore, if not managed right, or for lack of a better word ‘controlled’, the anti-system potency and dynamism at your organisation/nation-state/Church determine the choice of leadership/ideology that becomes dominant at the institution.

The moral of the story for OD practitioners and leaders:

  • Do not disregard the politics of the anti-system constituency
  • Don’t you ever think you can get rid of the anti-system voice or have everyone on your side.
  • Invest time in measuring and understanding anti-system politics and metrics. The size of the block and its voice determine the tactics to either: accommodate, ‘fight’ to eradicate, neutralise, etc
  • So you know, at times, the anti-system will do it for you, as they did for Macron: while multiple anti-system philosophies can be noisy and chaotic, if you manage to keep them divided on ideological terms, they can be a blessing in disguise – indeed, they let Macron in on things.
  • Finally, diversity and inclusion isn’t a bad thing; the anti-system voice is a good check/balance on the leadership and other system excesses

Anti-system elements are a constant at organisations

Overall, this is the cue: if the anti-system voices start to outnumber the faithful, you need to start paying more attention to solutions: including neutralising, bringing them on-side, the total disregard of the block, fighting to eliminate them, etc – the choice of appropriate approach/tactics can surface difficult choices for leaders

Which approach works best depends on the potency of the subject matter/s, situational factors, the culture and values at the organisation and leadership style.



Categories: You, the Leader!

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