What does leadership have to do with witchcraft?

According to Germanic beliefs a witch was a fence rider. She could make her way along the border being inside and outside at the same time. Witches were neither here nor there. Legends say they were questioning the existing paradigms. As a result, many of them were burnt for possessing unpopular information.

Leadership und HexereiHere, we can identify the correlation between witches and leadership. Organizations need to deal with the border between inside and outside – the symbolic function of a witch. This function closely follows what happens on the outside, and then provides the organization with the gathered information. Even today many of these audacious “fence riders” are being burnt symbolically because they feed the organization with unpopular information.

With the “Outside-Insight Concept”, organizations are enabled to systematically expand their “witch potential” in order to build enough irritation potential for the necessary self-renewal.

Our understanding of leadership

We believe that organizations would be well advised not only to consider qualification, search and selection of executives. Instead they should also ensure an incorporation of leadership in the organization through established communication structures, routines, processes and values in such a way that allows leadership to serve as a resource.

This will protect organizations from the dependency on the so-called “charismatic leaders” who in the worst case are not leading but misleading the organization.
In order to secure the balance between the outside and inside perspectives the organization has to deal with the demarcation between outside and inside. This requires people and processes that ensure that the function of the “fence rider” is highly developed – this is what we connect with leadership.

In this sense, we understand the ability to recognize and incorporate the benefits of witches as an important core capability of organizations, which has to be established and developed.

Establish communication processes

Leadership is present when organizations have the necessary processes, structures and views to process and differentiate the continuous observation. Organizations with leadership will ensure that sufficient people are “sitting on the fence” to see both the inside and outside. People who take over the witch function of “fence riding” are protected in the same way as the know-how which secures competitive advantages.

In this sense, leadership means the establishment of appropriate communication processes, which allow that observations made by the “witches on the fence” are analyzed and the results are considered in decision-making.
Fence riding is actively promoted and rewarded. Attempts to burn the witches are nipped in the bud since it is now realized that witches (either as people or as established routines) help to break the self-reference of the own organization. Consequently, organizations deal with their relevant environments, recognize expectations and requirements and consider them in the own action patterns and repetitive processes.

Organizations – Outside-Insight perspective

The self-reference of organizations can make them blind against the dynamic requirements of the relevant environments. On the one hand, effectiveness and efficiency are demanded to offer attractive services. In this case, the supporting factors are stability and reduction of complexity.

On the other hand, the organization has to continuously observe its relevant environments to recognize changes and address them internally. Furthermore,  organizations have to establish appropriate structures and routines through irritation (irritation is necessary since organizations focus on own internal operations by nature), which ensure that the attractiveness of the output is not lost but instead increased (which is not an easy process).

Leadership ensures stability and dynamics in an equal manner. Established processes and routines have to be optimized and protected to guarantee effectiveness and efficiency. Additionally, relevant environments have to be closely observed to recognize changes and pick up trends so that these are addressed and processed in the organization.

The currently observable dynamics in different environments substantiates the thesis that organizations need the above-mentioned leadership function to maintain it to a sufficient extent and to practice it. More than ever it must be questioned how to differentiate the leadership process in order to cope with the continuously changing requirements to ensure the long-term corporate success.

Leadership: Our procedure

Within the framework of the described organizational context we associate leadership with the following challenges that has to be addressed by people or established routines:

  • Create an identity and a vision. Ensure that the organization has a distinct identity and answers to the questions:
    What is our purpose? Where do we want to go? 
  • Confront the target state. Energize the organization by confronting the actual state with possible target states. Ensure a clear differentiation between the inside and the relevant environments (outside)
  • Promote focus. Consistently organize the organization towards the adopted targets. Make sure that the overall objectives are met also when certain events require tactical actions
  • Promote and process fence riding. Ensure that the symbolic witches on the fence (people or processes) are provided a platform resp. space and are not burnt. Establish appropriate communication routines so that outside observations can be analyzed and processed inside the organization
  • Consider the inside and outside perspectives to an equal extent. Balance preserving and renewing. Consistently address current topics to make the company viable for the future. At the same time, safeguard the good in order not to endanger the functionality of the organization
  • Ensure decision programs. Provide the organization with programmatic decision premises in order to align the corporate development process. Decision programs set the criteria for the correctness of decisions. Purpose programs determine which output resp. targets the organization should aim at (in order to). Conditional programs set how to react to certain inputs within the organization (if … then)

    • Describe and optimize processes. Stabilize and optimize processes in such a way that the organization can perform effectively and efficiently
    • Influence communication structures and determine internal rules of interaction and communication. Make non-hierarchical communication possible without eliminating the formal hierarchy. Initiate non-hierarchical solution processes which seek for the best solutions. Bring together the right people in the organization and ensure that the communication results in good solutions in order to use the existing intelligence of the organization
    • Select and keep the right people. People are linked to programs. Pay attention that the right employees operate in the right place. Promptly make and implement necessary personnel decisions
    • Ensure appropriate observation and evaluation patterns and determine the cultural characteristics of an organization. Through which lens should we evaluate and prepare decisions? What is desired and what is not? Who is coming into the organization and who is leaving? Who gets promoted and who is left behind? The actors of an organization closely observe through which action these questions are answered, which significantly determines the cultural characteristics of an organization

The leadership wheel: Learning about the components

Continuously observe the organizational settings, analyze the observation and work out needs for action. Also consider which observation patterns are used in order to recognize further options for action.

Side note concerning management literature

As already mentioned people are increasingly searching for orientation in crises and expect leadership and management. Since years, the relevant management literature has been dealing intensively with the topics of leadership and management. There is not enough space to comply with the variety of available definitions and descriptions.

In the following, there are some excerpts from well-known authors who professionally address the topic of leadership and management:

In the book Helmut Schmidt – Außer Dienst the following extract from page 80 sets out:

“An observation concerning the use of the language of Germans is only mentioned in passing. I know that the words leader and leadership are not willingly used because of the National Socialist leader cult. Still, there is no better word in our language that would be more appropriate. Unlike England or the USA where the word “leader” is natural, we still avoid the word “Führer” (leader).“

We also hold the opinion that leadership became an integral part of our vocabulary. We must ensure that leadership takes place in organizations. As has already been mentioned, we see leadership as a functional challenge and we would like to extend the focus beyond the “leader”.

Fredmund Malik describes effective management as Managing Performing Living. In his classic Malik outlines “right and good management as key to success“. Malik emphasizes that management has to be understood in its function. It is about fulfilling tasks, performing and making contributions. In conclusion, management is the transformation of resources to benefits. “Truly right management results in effectiveness and efficiency.” 

When taking a closer look at the American and English literature we note that a difference is made between leadership and management.

Rudolf Wimmer (2008): Interview, Bernhard Krusche, Paradoxes of the Leadership, p. 75 defines leadership as follows:

“In my opinion, leadership is a function within social systems. It includes that function holders view the whole organization and thereby, mobilize a specific attention by observing the respective responsibilities under the following points of view: Are we well-positioned regarding our task? Leadership first looks at the whole and from this point it energizes the respective area of responsibilities. In doing so, it confronts the actual state with possible target states. This tension is directly linked to the reason of the existence of every organization and thus the question: What is our purpose?”

Fritz B. Simon (2008): Interview, Bernhard Krusche, Paradoxes of the Leadership, p. 132 understands leadership as:

„… influencing communication structures, views, and bases for decisions of the organization resp. its members – bearing in mind that it cannot be achieved with a linear cause-effect mode by order or with control. Leadership is a central influence on the internal rules of interaction and communication.“

Covey, S.R. (2004) Der 8. Weg, Mit Effektivität zu wahrer Größe (Gabal)
Häfele, W. (2007) OE-Prozesse initiieren und gestalten (Haupt)
Kaudela-Baum, S. (2006): Strategisches Human Ressource Mana-gement im Wandel (Haupt)
Krusche, B. (2008): Paradoxien der Führung. Aufgaben und Funktionen für ein zukunftsfähiges Management (Carl-Auer)
Malik, F. (2005): Management, Das A und O des Handwerks (F.A.Z. Buch)
Schmidt, H. (2008): Helmut Schmidt, Außer Dienst – Eine Bilanz (Siedler)
Simon, F.B. (1992): Radikale Marktwirtschaft, Grundlagen des sys-temischen Managements (Carl-Auer)
Simon F.B. (2007): Einführung in die systemische Organisationstheo-rie
Wimmer, R. (1996): Die Zukunft von Führung: Brauchen wir noch Vorgesetzte im herkömmlichen Sinn? Organisationsentwicklung 4: 46-57
Zink, F. (2008): Finanzkrise bringt neue Weltordnung (ZDF-heute.de)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.