wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933)Mary Parker Follett


American management expert (pictured right) who was one of the first proponents of employee empowerment.



Key books


The New State (1918)

Individuals find fulfilment through their relationships in groups at work and in the community – the greater the variety of groups, the greater the fulfilment.

Lifelong learning and education are vital.


Key quote on ethics

I am an individual not as far as I am apart from, but as far as I am a part of other men. Evil is non-relation.


Community is a Process (1919 Philosophical Review article)

Groups (community) are creative because individual members combine effectively through a common will to achieve a purpose that is constantly changing.


Key quotes on community

“Community... creates personality, power, freedom. It also... continuously creates purpose”.



Creative Experience (1924)


There are two types of power in relationships at work:


1. “Power-over” 

Coercive power i.e. forcing people to do things because of an unwillingness to educate and persuade them.


2. “Power-with” 

The capacity to do things through:

  • “co-active power” (sharing power and decision making through involvement)
  • “the enrichment and advancement of every human soul”.

“Power-with” is the only genuine source of power and people’s authority should come from knowledge and experience, not position.


Success also depends on:


1. Learning

Everyone must learn from experience and past mistakes

But these lessons must be flexibly and creatively applied to each new situation.


2. Constructive conflict 

(constructive debate to find new and better solutions).

To do this people must have accurate information.


3. Integration

The integration and interrelationship of:

  • stimuli (causal factors like experience and motivation).
  • responses (changes in behaviour).

People's experience and motivation lead to changes in their behaviour which then affect their future actions in a “reflex circle” or “circular response”.

For example, employee behaviour changes because of:

  • motivation (wanting to do something).
  • experience (of past events, particularly management actions).
  • external factors (like the cost of living).


Key quote on motivation

“Our task is not to learn where to place power; it is how to develop power”.



The Teacher-Student Relation (1928 article)


The best leaders don’t exploit or coerce people but give them freedom to

  • release their energy and potential.
  • carry out a shared vision.

This requires

  • persuasion and advice.
  • reconciling different attitudes.
  • continually earning trust and respect.


Key quotes on leadership

The essential task of a leader is to free.



Dynamic Administration (1941) – a collection of her speeches and articles

(for more detail see  Dynamic Administration in the Business Books section)


An organization’s success depends on:


1. Empowerment 

Power is the capacity to make things happen, so empowerment comes from an individual’s self-motivation and can’t be delegated.

Employees (and leaders) must be free to create the next situation, not just react to it.


2. Constructive conflict through integration

(people finding common solutions to their problems through debating their different ideas).

So a leader must be a “leader of leaders”, preferring able people who can:

  • think for themselves.
  • constructively criticize and improve decisions.

Dissent must be rewarded and encouraged.


3. Reciprocal service

(managers serving the community and ensuring there is a community to serve).

Managers must never sacrifice their ideals.


4. Reciprocal leadership

(leaders and followers creating solutions in reciprocal (give and take) relationships to achieve a common purpose, the “invisible leader”).

The role of followers (“followship”) leads to a “partnership of following”.

A leader should do what they ask with sincerity.


5. The law of the situation

Effective leaders consider and grasp all the factors of every situation (the “total situation”).


6. Vision

Leaders should inspire people with a shared vision of the future.


7. Co-ordination

Interrelating all the factors in every situation and working together through evolving relationships to achieve the organization’s objectives.

This can’t be imposed but must happen voluntarily.


8. Learning

Education (not blaming others) is the best way to learn from mistakes.


Key quotes on business ethics

Service and sacrifice are noble ideals... Let them... be the handmaids of the great purpose of our life... which shall bring us individual freedom through collective control.


Key quote on leadership

The best leader knows how to make his (her) followers actually feel power themselves, not merely acknowledge his (her) power.


Key quote on motivation

Nothing stultifies one more than being blamed.

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