A Slight Dislike of Hierarchies

I developed my notion of leadership from below as a counterweight to traditional top-down leadership. Usually, leaders tell people what to do based on a position of authority within a hierarchical structure. A non-hierarchical, bottom-up leadership perspective is far from unique. However, I developed my own view, and I wrote it down. One could say it is based on my fieldwork in the US, Norway and Italy, on eclectic reading, on my experience from starting up businesses, from founding a think tank, and from having opinions about a great many things in fields where I at the outset had no reason to be particularly authoritative.

No, wait, let me give you the real impetus – I spent a year in the Norwegian Army. I recall being bossed around. I didn’t like it (but I loved it when I got my NAIS medal for markmanship). My colonel once brought me to his office to say that my attitude was fine if I was a general, but not fine for a private. He then said he recognized the attitude – he had been the same way. Then he scolded me for being as dumb as him. His advice was to just do what people told me to do. To fit in. To accept decisions that were wrong because it was the right thing to do. I guess this book, Leadership from below, I mean, is my revenge.

In short, for the good part of my youth I have been an opinionated bastard, or as the euphemism goes, an intellectual of sorts. However, I have always been an ideas-to-action kind of guy. Mere speculation and endless research was never enough. This is probably why I needed a break from university (I have spent time in a few, such as NTNU, the University of Naples Federico II, University of Liege, and UC Berkeley). Life as a researcher was too monotonous. I wanted more. I wanted to make an impact. Leadership from below starts there – with the wish to make an impact.

I will give some more explanation about how my own background quite nicely demonstrates that leadership from below works in a later post.


Effective Leadership Beyond the Hierarchy

Effective leadership has little or nothing to do with hierarchy and formal position. Rather, soon it will be entirely project based. Those who excel at being aware, sharing, and pooling knowledge, win. Once this is a reality, the workplace will be changed forever. I don’t mean that once you work project-based for a while you are part of this trend. In fact, a project here and there is not what this is about. I envision that hierarchy as we know it will disappear altogether. It won’t be needed and will have no function. Instead, a new hierarchy will appear: one purely based on knowledge and networks. This is a much more unstable situation. In effect, a given situation can determine who is in charge and e a hot topic can make an expert surface immediately. Whoever knows, and puts his or her knowledge to use, is in power. Given that some of this is happening already, why is it that hierarchy even still exists?

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