[I was starting to write about a topic that’s been on my mind a lot, when I discovered that I had already written about this in detail six years ago!]
I've been reminded of late what I dislike about traditional business: the antediluvian notion that the team or group works for management, rather than the other way around.
I suppose that's come to be accepted because in most companies managers actually do the hiring. But it doesn't need to be that way.
In fact, in my first dozen years of business I was exposed to a different model. Every organization or business team that I worked for hired—and fired—its management. (The team usually did the recruiting as well.) The team made the decision about who was going to manage it, and it was cloudlessly clear who worked for whom. The business team in this case was a rock & roll band.
Here's how it works in the world of R&R…
Once the team—the band—finds a prospective manager there's usually a "dating" period during which the manager demonstrates to the band the kinds of results the manager can produce for the band if they decide to work together permanently.
One band I was in decades ago played management candidates against each other—rather shamelessly I would admit—in a kind of bidding war. At the time we had the owner of LA's Troubadour competing against the manager of NY's Bitter End to work for us. This provided us the opportunity to open for acts such as Joni Mitchell, Tom Rush, and David Steinberg in those nightclubs.
In this model the business team gets to say: "Ok, Mr./Ms. Big Shot, show us what you can do and then we'll decide if you're going to work for us." And if manager and band decide to work together, they establish an explicit understanding (usually a legal contract) describing what the manager is expected to do—often with performance benchmarks (for example, securing a recording contract for the band). If management doesn't perform, it's hasta la vista.
Now, contrast that with the attitude in mainstream business today—despite empty slogans and "servant leadership" blathering to the contrary. "Father knows best" is still the unwritten rule. Except in a few enlightened outposts (Brazil's Semco comes to mind) where employees do hire and fire their managers, major corporations still cling to the top-down model.
Of course a big company can't switch its governance model when there are larger forces that keep the old system locked in place, especially for publicly traded companies. And in the case of most tiny start-ups, the leader is footing the bill for the fledgling enterprise and can’t be fired without the company dissolving.
But, as I often counsel senior leaders and managers, it would be very useful for them to start acting as if they reported to their "subordinates"—the teams, the workers—who could remove them if they didn’t get the job done. Even better if this was their ground of being and they began living this way.