Let’s be completely honest here, when I heard James Quigley had worked on a book subtitled “Individual Action/Collective Power,” I half-expected this to be a handbook on how to get miserable shlubs to do your evil bidding for you while you abuse and humiliate them. After all, the man oversees an entire army of miserable green dot shlubs, surely he knows a thing or two about getting people to do things for you.
Lucky for Quigs and the rest of the masterminds behind As One, however, this book was nothing of the sort. More like Choose Your Own Adventure for leaders, which allows the reader to first determine which archetype of leaders and followers his or her group falls under. Featuring case studies (“inspirational” stories) with such big names as Apple, GE and Pixar, As One looks the why of these organizations’ collaborative efforts before taking on the how.
Deloitte spent two years studying effective collaborations and in the process defined eight archetypes of leaders and followers: Landlords & Tenants, Community Organizer & Volunteers, Conductor & Orchestra, Producer & Creative Team, General & Soldiers, Architect & Builders, Captain & Sports Team and Senator & Citizens. The main archetypes are strategically located across a circular axis, with Landlord & Tenants and Community Organizer & Volunteer anchoring the upper and lower poles. Conductor & Orchestra and Producer & Creative Team sit at the extremities of the horizontal “nature of the task” dimension on the west and east ends of the axis. The other four archetypes are hybrids, occupying the spaces between the main archetypes and combining some characteristics of each.
So this got me thinking, where would Caleb and I be on the axis?
As much as I would like to paint your dear Going Concern editor in a sycophantic, borderline psychotic light, “Dictator & Huddled Masses” wasn’t included in As One, so instead I used the easy chart in the book’s intro to answer a few simple questions about how our organization works. I have the creative freedom to carry out tasks the way I choose (as long as I don’t talk too much about the Federal Reserve), and we have a fairly small hierarchy given the size of our website and TPTB that rule over us. Instead of choosing the archetype I assumed we’d be (Producer & Creative Team), I went by the chart to determine we were most like Community Organizer & Volunteers.
From key characteristics:
Volunteers cannot be told what to do; they must be given the choice to join on their own terms. The persuasive message of the community organizer motivates them to join in the cause; and it’s that common purpose that inspires volunteers to make a difference.
[Volunteers] independently choose to follow the path of altruism or enlightened self-interest. Community organizers and volunteers may be passionate, selfless and dedicated, but, above all else, they are independent thinkers who, of their own volition, decide whether to get involved in a cause and for how long.
“A community organizer is someone who uncovers [volunteers’] self-interest,” says Jana Adams, the National Training Coordinator at the Direct Action Training Research Center. “They give [volunteers] an opportunity to work in their own self-interest and address problems in the community that they could not address by themselves.”
All of those key characteristics rang true with me, though I wouldn’t necessarily call making misogynist jokes about work/life balance altruistic. And I definitely cannot be told what to do, so another point to the book for that one.
As One allows the reader the opportunity to brand his or her own strategy, whether or not the current structure allows for such freedom. Unlike much of what one might encounter in public accounting or any other similarly-structured business, the free flow and adaptability of As One gives leadership the chance to form itself, mostly through analysis of what makes an archetype tick. Even miserable shlubs have a drive (be it money, stability, masochism or the perpetual carrot of becoming partner one day being dangled in front of one’s face), it’s how they are driven that makes all the difference. Point being that leadership isn’t about who can bark orders the loudest, despite how life in public accounting might make it appear.
Are we all so easily prodded into distinctive roles? Not really, and As One doesn’t attempt to do so. Its authors argue that life itself is a collaborative journey, and it may just be easier on all of us to accept that. Organizational structure doesn’t necessarily have to create a disenchanted workforce just in it for the paycheck, and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each collaborative group can actually help infuse a little pride in the job, or at least more willing participation.
As One isn’t a book about how to get people who hate you to do things for you, it’s about recognizing the individual power in each of us to accomplish collective goals, be that running a business or changing the world as we know it. It presents some awfully lofty goals but asks one very important question: what could we accomplish if we could unlock the power of As One on a global scale?