“When you say leader, you don't mean a group, you don't mean a community. You  mean someone - it's hyper individualistic. More than leadership what we need is communityship.” – Henry Mintzberg

NEW: leaders for humanity

Today's world is complex and defies simple answers. In order to progress, we need to reflect and explore, unlearn and rediscover, and engage with our heads, hearts, hands and souls. Together, we need to learn how to become the conscious and caring leaders humanity needs.

In our interview series “Leaders for Humanity” we plan to ask global thought leaders three simple questions: a) What is Good?, b) What is a Good Organisation?, c) How can we become Good, individually and collectively? Our hope is that, over time, these dialogues will help to shape and guide our evolving narrative.

For each interview you will find pre-readings and transcripts, pointers to further work, and our notes. Hopefully you will enjoy the sessions as much as we do!

Make YOUR voice heard: simply connect with our Good Organisations Linkedin page to comment, suggest questions, and provide your own perspective!

Join these upcoming interviews!

(All previous episodes at the bottom)

Next Interview: Henry Mintzberg




The recording & some of our preferred quotes

You can find the full transcript of the video at the bottom. Please note it is automatically generated and hence will contain spelling mistakes.

"When the economy of free enterprises becomes a society of free enterprise, a Corporate Society, its citizens are no longer free." "We are driving to compete, collect and consume our way to neurotic oblivion"

  • 24:41

"The Supreme Court of the United States legalized bribery, some years ago, it's called Citizens United. And what they did, literally, was to throw the door open to political donations from the wealthy."

  • 32:26

"We need to fix capitalism. But we're never going to fix capitalism if we don't fix society. Capitalism is rampant in society. And nowhere is this better exhibited than in phrases like "democratic capitalism". People don't even think about what they're saying, which is that capitalism is more important than democracy."

  • 1:11:57

"Globalization, which is economic globalization, is incontestable. It has no countervailing power, nobody can stand up. Even the big countries have trouble standing up to international globalization."

  • 38:45

"The idea that a CEO should accept to be paid 300 times as much as the workers in the company makes that person not a leader. If you want a definition of someone who's not a leader, it's somebody who by his pay is prepared to send the message that I'm 300 times more important than any of my workers. That's an abomination."

  • 1:11:57

"Leadership is important. But the trouble with the word leadership is it implies an individual. When you say leader, you don't mean a group, you don't mean a community. You don't mean several people, you mean someone. And it's hyper individualistic.More than leadership what we need is communityship."

  • 1:29:01

[Business Schools] are minting money by mistreating education. They're minting money by sending people out who don't have a clue what real management is about, and are distorted from finding out. The few studies we have of MBAs as CEOs, including Harvard MBAs, show they do worse and get paid more.

  • 1:38:50

Do, it's up to you, everybody. It's what you do. It's not what you think it's not what you care about. It's not what you complain about. It's what you do to affect some kind of restoration of balance.

  • 1:49:07
The transcript is generated automatically via AI and might contain small errors

pre-reading, links and selected materials

Henry's own excellent homepage where you can find all his blogs, books (also those which are freely available) and many articles

We recommend strongly to download his book “Rebalancing Society” which can be found on this page in addition to further comments, insightful articles, and suggestions for action

Our absolute favourite: make sure you sign the "Declaration of Interdependence"!

If you are interested in coaching and development with Henry and with Phil please visit this page for further details on the global  "Coaching Ourselves" initiatives

Finally, you can get an overview and links to his scientific work here

And of course we must give a call out for Henry's unique beaver sculpture collection!

Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center

Managing the Myths of Health Care: Bridging the Separations between Care, Cure, Control, and Community

Bedtime Stories for Managers: Farewell to Lofty Leadership. . . Welcome Engaging Management

The Structuring of Organizations (Theory of Management Policy) - New edition coming soon

Mintzberg on Management

Strategy Bites Back: Strategy in Far More, and Less Than You Ever Imagined

our key takeaways

1) What is Good (Society)

  • In 1989, “balance” triumphed. Communist regimes were severely out of balance with too much power concentrated in their public sectors. But the collapse of communism led to the idea that capitalism had triumphed: “mankind had reached perfection, thanks to the invisible hand and relentless greed”. Thus, “thinking ended”. As a result, Capitalism went equally out of balance creating a “Corporate Society”. Greed became a cult. Competitive markets became markets of entitlement, benefiting few people at the expense of others. The invisible hand in the marketplace has become a “visible claw in Congress”. In 1952, 32% of all taxes were paid by corporations, by 2010 it dropped to 9%. “No taxation with representation!”
  • How did Capitalism come to represent the “end-all of human existence”? We are at the end of a “long march” towards imbalance between 1789-1989 leading to a most individualistic form of democracy, with few constraints to the power of individuals and non-state institutions and weakening of government and local community. The rise of corporations started in 1886 with the concession of property rights to corporations – creating entitlements for private businesses (“robber barons”), temporarily beaten back by Roosevelt’s New Deal after 1930, but remerging with supporting dogma from economists like Hayek/Friedman - centred on the “economic man” for whom “greed is good, property is sacred, markets are sufficient, and government are suspect”.
  • Tocqueville’s “self-interest rightly understood” has become “self-interest fatefully misunderstood”. We are “driven to compete, collect, and consume our way to neurotic oblivion”. Imbalance is destroying our planet and ourselves. Fact is that there are no human activities without externalities. Micro behaviours are rendering macro destruction. What many of us can afford, our planet cannot. In the name of liberty, we are suffering from individualism. Economists tell us that “if we can afford it, we can do it” - supply and demand will take care of the problem. So, instead of stopping destructive practices we try to price them to reduce demand. “Perversely, only the rich can indulge”.
  • “Adjectival capitalism” is symptomatic – sustainable, caring, democratic, regenerative. Pope Francis says: money must serve, not rule. Final stage of slavery is when you no longer realise you are a slave. “When the economy of free enterprise becomes a “society of free enterprise”, its citizens are no longer free.”
  • Globalisation undermines sovereign states and local communities, e.g. trade pacts include courts of arbitration that can enable private companies to sue sovereign states when they reduce the value of their expected future, creating a privatised justice system for big business profits (“an assault on democracy”) (cfr. Stefano Zamagni: lack of international institutions to govern globalised enteprises; Simon Western: lack of belonging/place of global businesses leads to malpractice and lack of grounding.) “No citizen or corporate has a moral right to use private wealth to influence public policies.”
  • At the same time, while private sectors have been expanding globally, plural sectors have been withering locally. New technologies have reinforced isolation of the individual detrimental to social engagement. Markets become coldly impersonal, electronic devices and social media are not creating shared meaning – don’t confuse networks with communities.
  • Democracy in America is at risk: 25 years after 1989 rates of incarceration / highest in the world, obesity / second highest; antidepressants / second-most prescribed drug; cost of health care; levels of poverty / highest ever; voter turnout / 114th of all nations; high school dropouts / 18th of top 24 industrialised nations; college graduation per capita / 16th in the world. Income disparities high, engagement 70% of workers hate going to work or have checked out. Dangerous decline in democracies worldwide. Europeans must stand their ground.
  • A “good society” is: a balanced society with respected governments to provide protections (policing and regulating), a private sector of responsible businesses to supply goods and services; and a “plural sector” of robust communities where we find many of our social affiliations. Note: Plural sector is neither public nor private, not owned by state nor investors. Some owned by members, most are owned by nobody. Formal: Cooperatives, NGOs, unions, religious orders, hospitals, universities; informal: social movements (in the street) and initiatives (delivering function on the ground). US has 30000 cooperatives with 350m members


  • A good society is a balance of public, private, and plural interests with a focus on communityship and common good. What exactly that translates into is not determined by rules, but dialogue.

2. What is a Good Organisation?

  • In his book “The structuring of organizations”, and later in “Mintzberg on Management”, Henry describes basic parts of an organization: Strategic apex (includes senior management), Middle line (links strategic apex to operating core), Operating core (handles operational processes), Technostructure (includes analysists of various sorts), Support staff (supports and offers services to the organization), Ideology (includes company's norms and values)
  • He then identifies several types of ideal organisation structures: a) Simple/entrepreneurial organization): Small staff, loose division of labour, little management hierarchy, informal, with power focused on the chief executive; b) Machine organisation/bureaucracy: Highly specialised, routine operating tasks, formal communication, large operating units, tasks grouped under functions, elaborate administrative systems, central decision making and a sharp distinction between line and staff. Workers operate as parts of a machine. Each department is responsible for its own tasks, and decision-making is centralized; c) Professional organisation/bureaucracy: Each professional works independently, without centralization, on tasks that match their specific skillset. Commonly found in hospitals, universities, public agencies and firms doing routine work, this structure relies on the skills and knowledge of professional staff in order to function. d) Divisional / diversified organisation: a set of semi-autonomous units under a central administrative structure. Diverse work is delegated among divisions. Each division focuses on its own activities and functions; e) Adhocracy: There is no formal structure; rather, highly qualified employees form teams to complete tasks and adjust to any industry changes.
  • Adhocracy gets later refined into: 1. The innovative organisation - flexible, rejecting any form of bureaucracy and avoiding emphasis on planning and control systems. Innovation is achieved by hiring experts, giving them power, training and developing them and employing them in multi-discipline teams that work in an atmosphere unbounded by conventional specialisms and differentiation. 2. The missionary organisation - it is the mission that counts above all else in such organisations; and the mission is clear, focussed, distinctive and inspiring. Staff readily identify with the mission, share common values and are motivated by their own zeal and enthusiasm. (cfr. Simon Western: discourses of leadership)
  • Large corporations, particularly as machine bureaucracies and divisional forms, are trapped in the systems they create. These two archetypes prevent social responsibility by design. In machine bureaucracies, mainly “economic goals are plugged in at the top, filtered down through a rationally designed hierarchy” and impel workers and managers to perform in an adaptive, socially responsible manner. In addition, the market system keeps large companies on a leash through competition and stock markets. Especially in the divisional organisation, managers are assessed mainly in terms of profitability and share performance, which again subverts social goals. Conversely, professional bureaucracies/organisations have a greater chance to balance social responsibility and economic logic as they often install strong ethical codes of conduct and leverage professional expertise and practices in client-centric decision-making. New members are selected by professionals and socialized over years to become responsible members of the profession. However, Henry also points out that professional organisations can be plagued by pigeonholing (categorizing clients wrongly or too strictly), lack of collaboration between different departments, professions and roles.
  • A number of organizational practices render responsible behavior more difficult: high CEO pay linked to profits (as these deliver wrong incentives, eg. tipping the balance towards shareholders); strict hierarchy which discourages questioning of practices/decisions, fragmentation and lack of transparency contributing to unethical practices; the tendency of firms to not investigate their own wrongdoings for fear of bad publicity; and a strong emphasis on quantitative measures at the expense of qualitative ones
  • Organisations function best as "communities of human beings, not collections of human resources". Humans are naturally inclined to engage, rather than needing to be empowered. Communityship implies that people pull together to function in collaborative relationship (cfr Torbert: inter-independence). It also means less “heroic” leadership, staying small/local and thus close to the relevant context, and managers who carefully enact their roles as bridge- and community-builders.
  • Our question here, as always, is how to “operationalise” a “good” organisation in terms of legal forms, governance, structures, processes, norms etc. Henry’s key point is that structures are contingent on context and complexity - with a preference for professional bureaucracy and a desire for entrepreneurial adhocracies (cfr. Stefano Zamagni’s point on eg cooperatives not being suitable for high capital intensity). Like us, he sees an increase in modular and heterogeneous structures that are able to adapt (cfr. Bill Torbert on stages of organisations)
  • How do Henry’s archetypes compare to a CST-based model of the firm (e.g. Sison’s common good theory) or Paul Adler (collaborative community)?
  • Can new legal structures enable big corporations to enact social responsibility (see discussions with Paul Adler)?
  • Clearly, an overemphasis on “efficiency” (often exclusively translated into quantitative measures) must be avoided (“cure over care”), and wrong incentives, e.g. CEO bonuses, don’t work. Henry also believes corporate irresponsibility is mainly prevalent in large corporations. 
3. How can we become good, individually and collectively?

a) Individual Transformation

  • Henry points out over-emphasis on leadership over management, especially where this focuses on individuals. He sees leadership as embedded within management and  'communityship' i.e. the sense of community which is needed for co-operative effort in organisations.
  • Henry stresses the importance of the manager's role and the need to understand it thoroughly before attempting to train and develop those engaged in carrying it out. “No job is more vital to our society than that of the manager. It is the manager who determines whether our social institutions serve us well or whether they squander our talents and resources" (cfr. MacIntyre management vs institutions; cfr. Bill Torbert “turn to action” in research and education).
  • In “The nature of managerial work”, Henry suggests ten practical roles that make up the manager’s job: 1. Interpersonal (Figurehead - performing symbolic duties as a representative of the organisation; Leader - establishing the atmosphere and motivating the subordinates; Liaiser - developing and maintaining webs of contacts outside the organisation), 2. Information (Monitor - collecting all types of information that are relevant and useful to the organisation; Disseminator - transmitting information from outside the organisation to those inside; Spokesman - transmitting information from inside the organisation to outsiders), 3. Decision-making (Entrepreneur - initiating change and adapting to the environment; Disturbance Handler - dealing with unexpected events; Resource Allocator - deciding on the use of organisational resources; Negotiator - negotiating with individuals and dealing with other organisations). Later, in the book “Managing”, he suggests five managerial mindsets: reflective, analytic, worldly (familiar with cultures and ideas beyond one's personal context), collaborative and proactive. (cfr. Bill Torbert’s action logic)
b) Societal transformation
  • Restoration of balance will require unprecedented renewal in America and beyond. We need a global grassroots movement that tackles climate change: immediate reversal (stop destructive practices), widespread regeneration (people engage in better practices); consequential reforms (governments and business recognise need for changes in structure).
  • Governments in general are discredited after 1989 and willing to stick with markets even when they misbehave. Governments need clearer messages from citizens and businesses must drop shareholder doctrine. Responsible laws imply: corporations "not too big to jail, or to fail". Incongruity of corporations having rights of persons without the responsibilities. Common property needs to take its place alongside private property ending excesses of intellectual property. Lobbying needs to go into public spaces and political advertising curtailed along with donations. Banking industry requires rethinking to eliminate manipulations. Taxing long overdue. Growth for the sake of growth is "the ideology of a cancer cell". Growth in quality, not quantity is needed – including insightful education, humanised medicine, healthier eating, better employment.
  • "Don’t expect miracles from CSR". Fanciful to believe that the problems created by some corporations will be resolved by other corporations (cfr Adler – market disadvantages good actors). Corporate social responsibility will not compensate for “corporate social irresponsibility”, don’t believe in a “win-win wonderland”. Green retailing won’t make up for greedy polluting. Fortunes are being made by exploitation. Democratic governments will not act vigorously as dominated by private entitlements, both domestic and global.
  • Both capitalism and communism promote undeserved privilege. Communism taught us that a society with hardly any private property cannot function effectively. Capitalism is teaching us that a society with hardly anything but private property is not much better. We need more common property: communal and shared but not owned (cfr Bruni relearning to own the commons, without property). Held by people jointly and together rather than separately and apart (cfr Ostrom). Intellectual property excessive patenting. Both capitalism and communism carried to their dogmatic limits are fatally flawed. Democracy problematic: voters vote themselves largess from public treasures.
  • Key to renewal is plural sector – the only actor that can lead the process of rebalancing (cfr. New social movements Simon Western). “If men are to remain civilised or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve” (Tocqueville). We need a public sector movement. We must engage in social movements and initiatives (cfr Paul Adler)
  • Trouble with revolution is that they "usually replace one form of imbalance with another" (eg Lenin: dictatorship of the proletariat) – good examples are Reformation and Quebec revolution. Average age of the world’s greatest civilisation has been around 200 years. Progress seems circular - from "bondage to courage to liberty to selfishness, complacency, apathy and back to dependence and bondage" (similar: Zamagni cycles from equality to superiority, Putnam from "We to I" society). Mary Parker Follet presented three ways to deal with conflict: domination, compromise, integration – finding a third way. (cfr Torbert mutual power) Responsible social movements and initiatives networked globally for collective impact is the greatest hope we have for regaining balance.
c) Role of education
  • In “Managers Not MBAs” Henry is highly critical of traditional MBA programmes. He believes that management is a practice which cannot be taught in the classroom but has to be learned on the job, through apprenticeship, mentorship, and direct experience. Henry established International Masters for Health Leadership at McGill helping managers to learn from each other and to develop a reflective approach to learning from their own experience.
  • Similarly, the relationship between strategy and planning is a constant theme in Henry's writing, e.g. in The Strategy Safari and Tracking Strategies. He sees strategy not as the consequence of planning but the starting point”. He has coined the phrase “crafting” strategies to illustrate his concept of the delicate, painstaking process of developing strategy and invented the concept of 'emergent strategy'. He argues that strategic plans are generally useless as one cannot predict two to three years ahead. In his book “The rise and fall of strategic planning”, he produced a masterly criticism of conventional theory and three basic failings in traditional planning: a) Processes - elaborate processes create bureaucracy and suppress innovation and originality; b) Data – “hard” data (the raw material of all strategists) provides information, but “soft” data provides wisdom: “Hard information can be no better and is often at times far worse than soft information”. (cfr Nora Bateson: warm data); c) Detachment - Henry dismisses the process of producing strategies in ivory towers (“strategy grows like weeds in the garden, not like tomatoes in a hothouse”).
  • There is no “collective we” in mainstream economics. But our collective we is being threatened. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it form our children.

  • A critical view on leadership is necessary ("the more we crave it, the less we get it"). The differentiation between leadership and management is often psychological "splitting" and illusionary. Good management can be seen as caretaker role of institution (cfr Alejo Sison on MacIntyre)
  • Paul Samuelson’s idea of the dual “mixed economy”, with markets accountable for free enterprise and governments accountable for services that markets will not provide and regulation, has gone out of balance. Similar to Paul Adler, Henry is skeptical of CSR and of the role of government. Rather than democratic socialism ("who would vote for them?"), he hopes for a greater role of the third / plural sector to re-balance. However, plural sector is a wide array of fragmented actors and it will be difficult to unite. As Henry points out, in order for the plural sector  to contribute to the solution, we need to find a way to consolidate the many social initiatives into a mass movement. This, however, seems an impossible challenge. It seems that as a start every individual must (also) “balance” themselves and accept responsibility as citizen for collective future (cfr Stefano Zamagni “civil society”, cfr nodal roles in Carol Sanford).
  • In terms of education, Henry clearly confirms Bill Torbert's idea of action-centric and reflective learning (cfr "action inquiry") to attain skills and practical wisdom

leaders for humanity

margit osterloh


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