Re-discovering Barnard: the functions of the . . . leader?
Highlighting Chester Barnard’s contributions for the twenty-first century business executive
Susana Fernández H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship,
Nova Southeastern University, Davie, Florida, USA and Barry Kaye College of Business, Florida Atlantic University,
Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight Barnard’s groundbreaking ideas, and to interpret his contributions to the philosophy and practice of business as they apply to the twenty-first century executive.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper makes use of primary data by focusing on Barnard’s The Functions of the Executive, as well as other material written by, and about, him. Barnard’s insights on executive management are then reinterpreted in light of Ramey’s Leadership Quality Commitments, whose balance is deemed an essential marker of success for twenty-first century leaders.
Findings – The paper presents Barnard as a pioneer philosopher in the field of management, whose rich contributions have permeated management theory and practice since he first published his seminal work 71 years ago. Barnard’s concept of cooperation is re-discovered as the basis of a leadership framework that places the executive at the center of a system responsible for balancing an unstable equilibrium among life, work, and society.
Practical implications – The paper suggests that Barnard’s contributions are as relevant now as they were 71 years ago. Exploring the competencies that make executives effective and efficient, for example, provides insights regarding the combined roles of the executive as leader and manager.
Originality/value – The bulk of Barnard’s contributions is found in the field of management, yet his views on cooperation, moral responsibility, motivation, positive interdependence, decision making, authentic self-hood, strategy and legacy seem incredibly in line with leadership theory. Re-discovering him as a leadership thinker may help to bridge the conceptual gap that is perceived to exist between management and leadership literature.
Keywords Management history, Leadership, Management theory
Paper type Conceptual paper
More than the topography and cartography of organization would be necessary to understand the executive functions; a knowledge of the kinds and qualities of the forces at work and the manner of their operation would also be needed (Barnard, 1938, p. viii).
Introduction According to Shulstad (2009, p. 12), “it is not useful to spend a lot of time trying to distinguish between leadership and management,” yet he acknowledges that the issue is frequently discussed. Agreeing with many, he believes that both fields overlap and are needed for organizational success, and quotes Colin Powell to illustrate his point:
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Journal of Management History Vol. 16 No. 4, 2010 pp. 468-488 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1751-1348 DOI 10.1108/17511341011073951
“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible” (Shulstad, 2009, p. 12). The slight distinction between leadership and management in Powell’s quote captures Barnard’s views rather well, since it describes a synergistic system where results go beyond mere effectiveness. Recognizing the artistic, systemic, and synergistic side of executive behavior might be acceptable in our current conceptualization of business success, but 71 years ago when Chester Barnard first suggested that there was more to executive behavior than what was proposed by scientific management theorists, the thought was quite revolutionary. Yet, he was certain that without the creative element of systemic human cooperation, organizational success would not be achieved. And it was leadership, not management, which he saw as “the indispensable fulminator of its forces” (Barnard, 1938, p. 259). So, maybe the perceived gap between the fields began with Barnard. After all, his book was not addressing the functions of regular managers, but those of executives, whose job is organizational sustainability and not the “work of the organization” (Barnard, 1938, p. 215). However, and even if the perceived distinction between the two fields has but grown in these last decades, Barnard’s The Functions of the Executive (1938) still holds that true organizational success occurs when both leadership and management are practiced behaviors in a open system that constantly balances the internal and external forces that threaten its stability.
Therefore, the purpose of this paper was not only to highlight Barnard’s brilliance as a pioneer philosopher in the field of management, but also to present him as a groundbreaking leadership thinker. This re-discovery of Barnard as a leadership thinker might be necessary for a variety of reasons. For one, “Barnard is quietly becoming the lost management bard,” as Aupperle and Dunphy already noticed in 2001 (p. 157). According to the authors, most current management and organizational behavior textbooks do not cite Barnard or his contributions, which makes it necessary to bring attention to his seminal work once again. A quick review in 2009 shows no increase in citations about Barnard within these areas. Despite his many contributions, he is not even mentioned among the “selected notable alumni” at his alma mater, the Mount Hermon School’s web site. Scott (1992, p. ix) had also identified this issue when he said that Barnard’s contributions were “seldom learned by students, mostly unacknowledged by management scholars, and overlooked by historians”, and Williamson (1995, p. v) believed that “its current research significance was undervalued.” From these affirmations, it is not difficult to imagine that practitioners are not the more familiar either. Also, in many cases, little attention is given to the roots of certain leadership concepts that can be traced or related historically to his work (Novicevic et al., 2002, 2005). Therefore, a re-discovered perspective as a leadership theorist will only widen Barnard’s appeal, while his contributions will help to enrich the leadership construct. Birkinshaw and Goddard (2009) add yet another reason why re-discovering Barnard is important, and that is to bridge the conceptual gap that is perceived to exist between management and leadership literature. In their article, Birkinshaw and Goddard (2009, p. 83) note that “for the last 30 years, it has been ideas about leadership, not management, that have come to dominate our conversations and our bookshelves.” According to them, “for every 10 books on how to become a better leader, you would be lucky to find one focused on management.” This could very well be a result of leadership being perceived as a more relevant competence for executives to develop, and one that seems to be generally portrayed as wholly independent from
management (Nienaber and Roodt, 2008). Nevertheless, Nienaber and Roodt (2008) observe that there is no “scientific rigour” in these popularly held assumptions, and that until recently, both terms were used interchangeably.
A renewed leadership focus on Barnard’s contributions can help to clarify this conceptual gap, since Barnard (1938, p. 216) believed that the functions of the executive are not only to “manage a group of persons” or even “to manage the system of cooperative efforts”, but to go beyond the process by being both effective and efficient while using intuition, understanding motivation, practicing “observational feeling” (Barnard, 1938, p. 90), instilling pride in a job well done, ensuring alignment, encouraging moral responsibility, and even welcoming a leap of faith with regards to organizational success. Furthermore, Birkinshaw and Goddard (2009) argue that since organizational success is based on the management model chosen by the organization, having executives focus on leadership alone, without understanding management principles, will not be enough to succeed in the twenty-first century. Barnard (1938, p. 259) agrees, and warns that “to suppose that leadership, that the moral elements, are the only important or significant general factor in organization is as erroneous as to suppose that structure and process of cooperation without leadership are sufficient.” Re-discovering Barnard’s contributions to management in light of a dynamic leadership model, such as Ramey’s (1991), may help modern executives to see both fields as part of a system that conceptually combines leadership and management roles seamlessly.
This paper recognizes Barnard’s comprehensive contributions as a theorist and philosopher, as well as the pioneer responsible for bringing to light the need to combine the structural requirements of an organization with the needs of its socio-human system (Schwartz, 2007). Structurally, this paper first examines Barnard’s life, followed by an introduction to Ramey’s (1991) framework of leadership quality commitments. This framework will serve as a guide to analyze Barnard’s systemic approach to dynamic and morally responsible cooperation from a leadership perspective. Subsequently, quality of life, quality of work, and quality of society (Ramey, 1991) will be addressed separately with supporting insight from Barnard’s contributions. It is this reinterpretation of Barnard’s insights on executive management in light of Ramey’s (1991) leadership quality commitments what will, hopefully, bridge the conceptual gap that is perceived to exist between management and leadership literature. Finally, this paper will conclude by presenting the value that exists in re-discovering Barnard as a leadership thinker for twenty-first century leaders.
A life grounded in action research In his first annual message to Congress on December 3, 1861, Abraham Lincoln said that “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration” (Peterson’s Magazine, 1904, p. 510). Although other management theorists had given high consideration to labor, it was not until Barnard’s “keen noneconomic intuition” that Smith’s image of an “economic man” was challenged and replaced with the image of an “organizational man,” whose success was rooted in the combination of attention to economic interest and social phenomena (Williamson, 1995, p. 5). As Barnard (1938, p. xi) said, “not until I had much later relegated economic interests to a secondary–though indispensable–place did I begin to understand organizations or human behavior in them.” Yet, Barnard’s contributions
were not the result of an academic life; instead, they were the result of a life grounded in close to 30 years of personal action research as a business executive for AT&T.
Barnard came to life in Malden, Massachusetts, on November 7, 1886 (Wren and Greenwood, 1998), amidst “a society that looked optimistically to the future” but regarded the corporation as a symbol of “undemocratic practices by malefactors of great wealth” (Hoopes, 2002, p. 1022). His father, a machinist mechanic with “grammar school education” but an intelligence that matched his intellectual thirst, remarried after Barnard’s mother, Mary Putnam, died at childbirth when Barnard was five (Wolf, 1973, 1974). Raised without too many economic means but with the loving warmth and support of his maternal grandparents, Barnard developed independence, pragmatism, and a love for music, philosophy, and critical thinking that compensated for his lack of physical coordination, poor constitution and eyesight, and loner disposition (Wolf, 1973, 1974). According to Barnard, his family, which included an older brother and a younger stepsister, as well as the seven or eight members in his grandparents’ family, “used to argue, endless arguments for hours, on Herbert Spencer and other philosophies” if they were not singing or playing an instrument, instead (Wolf, 1973, p. 8). Barnard, himself, was an accomplished pianist who, after finishing grammar school, became an apprentice in a piano factory, where he learned to tune pianos (Wolf, 1973; Wren and Greenwood, 1998). Much later, his love for Bach motivated him to become a founder of the Bach Society of New Jersey (Wolf, 1974).
Wanting to make more of himself, but without the economic resources to pursue his academic goals, Barnard decided to study on his own to apply to the prestigious Mount Hermon School, which rigorously prepared young men of meager means who wanted to attend the ivy league universities of the east (Scott, 1992; Wolf, 1974). According to the school application, “Lazy boys [were] not desired,” and Barnard did not disappoint (Scott, 1992, p. 62). His father described him in the application as “strong minded, studious, ambitious, quick to learne [sic], moral” (Scott, 1992, p. 62). After two years at Mount Hermon, Barnard applied to Harvard University, where he majored in economics (Wolf, 1974). Although he completed his studies in three years, he had never taken sciences while at Mount Hermon, which prevented him from taking physics and chemistry examinations, and consequently, from graduating with his Harvard class in 1910 (Wolf, 1974). He worked throughout his studies to support himself, both as a dance orchestra conductor and a as typist of theses for other students (Wolf, 1974). His load was very heavy, and many days he had to work through the night, which forced him to quit Harvard without sitting for those science exams (Wolf, 1973).
In 1909, right after withdrawing from Harvard, Barnard got a job with AT&T with the help of Walter Gifford, newly appointed Chief Statistician and a Harvard alumnus, whom he had met per the suggestion of Barnard’s uncle, who worked for AT&T in Texas (Wolf, 1973). Thanks to his command of French, Italian, and German, Barnard was hired to do statistical work as well as to translate and analyze foreign telephone rates (Scott, 1992; Wolf, 1973; 1974). A year into the job, on December 6, 1911, Barnard married Grace F. Noera in Cliftondale, Massachusetts (Secretary’s Second Report, Harvard College, Class of 1910, 1914). By the time Barnard was chosen to become the new General Manager and Assistant Vice President of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania in 1922 (Wolf, 1973), the Barnards had welcomed a baby girl to their family, Frances, their only child, who had been born in 1919. Her premature death in 1951, while giving birth to twin girls, became a source of deep grief for Barnard and his wife, both of whom never quite recovered from the loss (Scott, 1992; Wolf, 1974).
In 1927, shortly after Barnard had become General Manager and Assistant Vice President of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, he was promoted to be the first President of the New Jersey Bell, and put in charge of the amalgamation of smaller telephone operators throughout the region. He held this position until he retired in 1948 (Scott, 1992; Wolf, 1974). Barnard’s tenure at AT&T coincided with the Great Depression of the thirties in the USA. Showing the great moral responsibility that he later alluded to in his book, Barnard instituted a “no lay-off policy” in his company by “cutting back all employees’ hours instead of dismissing some” (Hoopes, 2002, p. 1016). Although Barnard did not have the “flair of Andrew Carnegie, nor the confidence of wealth of a John Pierpont Morgan, nor the organizational transformational genius of an Alfred Sloan, Jr,” he was quite respected by the public, Harvard scholars, and government officials (Wren and Greenwood, 1998, p. 163). Possibly because of the respect he commanded, he was asked to publicly serve his country and his government, while maintaining his corporate responsibilities at AT&T, at several times during his professional career. Clearly, he understood the way to get results, and as Andrews says in the introduction to the 1968 edition of The Functions of the Executive, “his wisdom came from a combination of intellect and experience, of an inclination for systematic thought and a generous exposure to responsibility and the necessity to achieve results though cooperation” (Barnard, 1968, p. xxi). Therefore, in 1931 and 1932, he was put in charge of organizing the New Jersey’s Relief Program for the unemployed. His work during this time, “acclaimed for both efficiency and humanity, became a model for publicly funded relief efforts elsewhere” (Hoopes, 2002, p. 1015). His public service did not end there, though. In 1941, he was appointed Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury (Wolf, 1974). Later, and at the insistence of John D. Rockefeller Jr, he served as the President of the United Service Organizations (USO) from 1942 to 1945. In addition to considering it as one of the hardest jobs he had ever done, Barnard was able to increase USO’s network from about 692 units to about 3,000 units when he left (Wolf, 1974). In 1948, he was again called to serve the government as a member of the Committee on the National Security Organization, which worked on President Hoover’s “reorganization of the executive branch of the federal government” (Wolf, 1974, p. 31).
Not only was he involved in public service, but being “an unusual combination of the practical and the cerebral,” and as a self-made scholar with a voracious appetite for reading and abstract study, he quickly became part of Harvard’s academic circles, giving lectures and exchanging intellectually with the likes of Lawrence Henderson, Talcott Parsons, B.F. Skinner, Elton Mayo, Wallace Donham, and George C. Homans, among others (Hoopes, 2002, p. 1019; Scott, 1992; Wolf, 1974). It was precisely as a result of his academic involvement that he was offered the opportunity to give a series of eight lectures for the Lowell Institute of Boston between November and December of 1937 (Wolf, 1973, 1974; Wren, 1994). Lawrence Lowell, who was the President of Harvard at the time, and had been Barnard’s professor, was in charge of arranging these lectures as the sole trustee of his family foundation, and was later instrumental in encouraging Barnard to publish them in 1938 as The Functions of the Executive (Wolf, 1973, 1974). Although Barnard had had no intention of writing a book on the subject, the editor of the Harvard University Press persuaded him to write the extemporaneously presented lectures into the volume that became a classic (Wolf, 1973, 1974; Wren and Greenwood, 1998).
After Barnard retired from AT&T, at age 60, in 1948, he was pressured to take the presidency of the Rockefeller Foundation, of which he was already a board member since 1940 (Scott, 1992). By the time he retired in 1952, after reaching mandatory retirement age (65), he was appointed by President Eisenhower to be the Chairman of the National Science Foundation, which he served for four years (Wolf, 1974).
During his life, Barnard garnered much recognition, which he humbly accepted, including seven honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Merit for his work with the USO (Wolf, 1973). As a result of a weakened heart “with rusty valves” (Wolf, 1973, p. vii), he passed away on June 8, 1961, at the age of 74, after enriching:
[. . .] our understanding of the need to define the purpose of enterprises, to elicit cooperation, and to recognize that managers in all organizations must use their communication and leadership skills to build teamwork and cooperation (Wren and Greenwood, 1998, p. 169).
Ramey’s leadership quality commitments and Barnard’s commitment to quality leadership Ramey’s (1991, p. 1) leadership framework is summarized in the following quote:
The fundamental responsibility of leadership is to make a commitment and a contribution of lasting public value to the quality of our lives, the quality of our work, and the quality of society. The rest is technique.
Figure 1 shows a picture of the framework as described by Ramey in his book, Empowering Leaders (1991, p. 2), yet Ramey’s tacitly present leader has been visibly added to its center to clarify the framework.
Quality of life
Quality of work
Quality of society
Barnard, who rejected the traditional view of organizational structure and favored a systems perspective akin to Ramey’s, believed that an organization is a “cooperative system, of which the organization is both a nucleus and a subsidiary system, which has also as components physical systems, personal systems (individuals and collections of individuals), and social systems (other organizations)” (Barnard, 1938, p. 240). This view of organization naturally relies on human behavior to create, transform, and exchange utilities (Barnard, 1938, p. 240). In turn, both the behaviors, as well as the outcomes that are created, transformed, or exchanged as a result of them, will continue to affect individuals, their work, and their societies in a systemic loop of interdependence and causation (Scott, 1992).
Like in Ramey’s framework, it is this systemic interdependence among the cooperative parts which “creates the need for a leader,” since it is the leader who is responsible for communicating and clarifying the purpose “into terms of concrete action required to effect it–what to do and when and where to do it. This necessitates knowledge of the conditions of the environment, and of the actions under way” (Barnard, 1938, p. 107). With this statement, Barnard (1948, p. 84) calls for a special kind of person with special kinds of qualities, which is why he defines leadership as “the quality of the behavior of individuals whereby they guide people or their activities in organized effort.” This view is what may have labeled Barnard as an elitist (Scott, 1992). Yet, his perspective simply recognizes that these “guardian executives” not only need to have moral responsibility due to their persuasive and decision-making roles, but that they also need to possess superior intellectual capacities and skills to carry it off (Barnard, 1995; Heames and Harvey, 2006; Pauchant, 1994; Raadschelders and Stillman, 2007). In fact, Barnard does not adhere blindly, or in an elitist fashion, to technical skill or specialized knowledge alone for, although he recognizes their importance, he also believes that “an intelligence that perhaps will be derived from experience in cooperation rather than from anything suggestive of formal education” is equally necessary for success (Barnard, 1938, p. 293).
When examined in light of Ramey’s framework, Barnard’s morally responsible “elite worker” seems to be the only one capable of choosing the effective and efficient “technique” that Ramey mentions, especially since Ramey’s quality-based leadership framework is grounded in Hammarskjold’s idea that “what distinguishes the ‘elite’ from the masses is only their insistence upon ‘quality’.” (Ramey, 1991, p. 1, emphasis added). Barnard would probably agree that the commitment to a responsibly chosen “technique” is what helps the leader, found at the center of the “qualities,” to balance the unstable system by eliciting the right type of cooperation among the interdependent elements of that system. For Barnard, it is the leader’s creative approach in knowing how to encourage willingness to cooperate, how to develop a common purpose, and how and when to communicate effectively and efficiently (Wren and Greenwood, 1998) that makes a leader’s technique valuable and worthy of executive status (Novicevic et al., 2008).
Furthermore, Ramey’s framework (1991) seems to touch on each of the “structural” and “principal dynamic” concepts identified by Mahoney (2002. p. 162) in Barnard’s “conceptual scheme of the theory of organization.” On the structural side, Barnard addresses the free will of the individual as well as the rational limitations that allow for intuition and experience to be important. The concept of cooperation anchored in trust, as well as the concepts of formal and informal organization, with their emphasis
on purposeful cooperation and genuine communication, respectively, is also on the structural side. On the dynamic side, Mahoney (2002) identifies Barnard’s focus on free will and the consciousness of a leader’s choices; authentic communication; consensual authority based on shared meaning; the decision process from a contextual perspective; the dynamic equilibrium and the inducement-contributions balance addressing resource allocation and rewards; and finally, leadership, executive responsibility, and moral codes, all of which Barnard sees as having “chief significance in human cooperation” (Mahoney, 2002, p. 166). It is evident that each of these concepts underscores the kind of leadership that is needed for organizations to provide quality of life for workers, who in turn will cooperate effectively and efficiently to contribute to the quality of work that will become sustainable in socially responsible fashion so as to affect the quality of society. As Mahoney (2002, p. 168) notes, “Barnard’s thesis is that management requires both art and science”, which is not unlike what Ramey’s (1991) framework suggests leaders must master.
Barnard’s views, therefore, define an executive that does not differ much from what Peter Drucker would later label the “knowledge worker” (Abzug and Phelps, 1998). Furthermore, as Heames and Harvey (2006) and Abzug and Phelps (1998) note, the “elite workers” described by Barnard are very much equivalent to what is expected in a leader of today with respect to “value-added technical and business skills” (Heames and Harvey, 2006, p. 38). With a pioneering insight, Barnard understood that those who were in charge of organizations, and were responsible for their sustainability, faced two challenges; that of “adjusting to changing circumstances or new kinds of work, while the other concerned attaining common understanding among people and groups” (Novicevic et al., 2002, p. 993). Similarly, Ramey (1991, p. 2) says that leadership is responsible for integrating “organizational, institutional, and personal values into coherent systems.” Again, Ramey’s interpretation of leadership seems to address Barnard’s suggestion of a leader as someone who is committed to balancing internal integration with external adaptation, since the three qualities are always affecting one another for better or worse. It seems that for both thinkers this balance is only possible through positive interdependence and morally responsible cooperation.
As mentioned earlier, this paper presents Barnard’s insights from the perspective of Ramey’s (1991) framework. In doing so, Barnard’s key ideas about cooperation, moral responsibility, motivation, positive interdependence, decision making, authentic self-hood, strategy, and legacy, among others, will be re-discovered as characteristics or competencies associated with executives who are not only committed to managing their organizational systems, but also with leaders committed to successfully balancing the quality of life, the quality of work, and the quality of society. Ramey’s (1991) framework ultimately is used to propose that Barnard’s re-discovered functions are not limited to managers, but that they also give us seminal insight into what is needed to be a contingent leader in a dynamic environment. A dissection of the quote summarizing Ramey’s quality-based framework follows.
Fundamental responsibility Regarding this concept, Barnard (1938, p. 260) wrote: “It is the aspect of leadership we commonly imply in the word ‘responsibility,’ the quality which gives dependability and determination to human conduct, and foresight and ideality to purpose.” From Barnard’s
perspective, to become a leader is a conscious, voluntary choice rooted in responsibility. In a groundbreaking departure from commonly held beliefs at the time, Barnard’s view of responsibility involved more than running the organization, since it required the creation of strategy for sustainability, and a sense of legacy. Scott (1992, p. 142) explains that for Barnard, “maintenance was nothing less than management’s ultimate responsibility to assure organizational survival.” But because to do so, a leader would need to make decisions, rely on knowledge and experience, and ultimately influence the behaviors of others, the leader automatically needed to be held accountable for the choices made. And these choices, according to Barnard, needed to reflect the moral authenticity of the leader, and serve as a way to differentiate executives from managers (Barnard, 1995).
This seems in line with the sense of fundamental responsibility that Ramey’s (1991) framework highlights. Responsibility as a fundamental aspect of leadership is also particularly evident in Barnard’s views of cooperation. For him, people “cooperate with each other because they believe they have common interests and compatible goals” (Barnard, 1995; Scott, 1992, p. 182). Yet this finding of commonality on the part of the parties is often the result of the actions of the leader (Barnard, 1995). Barnard (1938,  1995) was of the opinion that in leading, executives would influence others by “creating morals” for them or by creating desires through persuasion for them to want to do things. This would require great responsibility on the leader’s part, especially with regards to how they would exercise their authority (Barnard, 1995). Clearly, Barnard understood that because a leader’s personal and individual moral values will play a role in the criteria used to create and/or interpret organizational values, a committed sense of responsibility was necessary to make leadership authentic (Aupperle and Dunphy, 2001; Barnard, 1995). That is why Barnard (1938, p. 270) believed that “only the deep convictions that operate regardless of either specific penalties or specific rewards are the stuff of high responsibility.” In an unpublished, 1936 commencement address given at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Barnard addressed the systemic fundamental responsibility of leadership as follows:
To support ourselves and our families is our first duty to ourselves and to society as well; to contribute to the material welfare of mankind; to aid and support the political institutions of our time; to promote the art of cooperation among us without sacrificing our own sense of personal respect and responsibility; to hold fast to our own convictions without violence to those of others; to keep ourselves throughout loyal to our own code of right conduct, and to struggle upward toward the light of the Ideal and the Spirit–these as one harmonious whole should be the ends of our ambition, the never ending achievement of each day’s work yet never attainable, the only course which promises enduring satisfaction (Wolf, 1974, p. 47).
Barnard’s views in the above address reflect a natural integration of Ramey’s (1991) personal, organizational, and social dimensions that emanates from a deep sense of responsibility and voluntary commitment to authentic leadership.
Making a commitment According to Ramey (1991, p. 1), the “fundamental responsibility of leadership is to make a commitment.” In fact, like Barnard in his commencement address (Wolf, 1974), Ramey (1991, p. 35) believes that “the public expression of commitment among constituents is perhaps one of the best measures of the presence of effective leadership”, since it is through committed participation that accomplishment and success can be
achieved. The concept is similar to what Barnard believed to be the nature of leadership (1948), which he roots in moral responsibility. As Mahoney (2002, p. 162) notes, all of Barnard’s teachings “emphasize competence, moral integrity, rational stewardship, and professionalism” as essential characteristics for leaders to exhibit. As mentioned earlier, Barnard says that a leader can be recognized by the morally responsible commitment to both action and ideal. He explains that when committed, a leader will work towards an outcome that may be far into the future or that may end up being achieved by future generations instead. In short, Barnard is defining the commitment of a leader as a vocation that requires a conscious choice (Mahoney, 2002).
Wren and Greenwood (1998) explain that Barnard saw organizations as institutions capable of presenting leaders with “possibilities for expanding the powers of the group beyond what the individual can accomplish alone,” thanks to the coordination of efforts. And although the leader of the system is charged with the responsibility of coordination, the voluntary choice inherent in acting in an interdependent manner requires personal commitment from all the system’s parts. For Barnard, the “systems view of the organization [. . .] contains a psychological theory of motivation and behavior, a sociological theory of cooperation and complex interdependencies, and an ideology based on a meritocracy” (Mahoney, 2002, p. 162). As Barnard (1938, p. 296) explains:
[. . .] only as [the parts of a system] choose to work together can they achieve the fullness of personal development; that only as each accepts a responsibility for choice can they enter into the communion of men from which arise the higher purposes of individual and cooperative behavior alike.
It is, therefore, “within the cooperative system [that] the moral factor finds its concrete expression and suggests the necessity of leadership” (Mahoney, 2002, p. 167). Therefore, making a commitment also means that the leader must “pursue the interests of the organization over their own self-interests,” which is a quality that Humphreys and Einstein (2003 p. 91) present as transformational.
Aupperle and Dunphy (2001) suggest that to be a leader it might be necessary to accept the synergy that can result from cooperation without any cynicism because, as Barnard (1938, p. 283) prescribed, cooperation can transform people. There is no doubt that, as a humanist, Barnard was also an idealist. As Wolf (1974, p. 49) explains, Barnard encouraged personal initiative and integrity because “he had faith in the superior faculties of mankind and saw the purpose of individuals to be contributing to the society as a whole within a framework of individual freedom and responsibility.” This is particularly important, since Barnard (1958, p. 13) believed that “responsibility cannot be arbitrarily delegated,” so its presence was the result of “autonomous behavior” or commitment. As Mahoney (2002) explains, Barnard based the sustainability of the organization on “moral commitment” because only when there is commitment can there be persistence to cooperate. Furthermore, “the part of leadership that determines the quality of action is responsibility,” especially in the way the “moral factor” allows leaders to inspire cooperation and faith in the outcome (Mahoney, 2002, p. 167).
According to Humphreys and Einstein (2003, p. 89), “Barnard saw people as external to the organization”, which meant that they had the “choice to enter the organization based on their own free will and how the organization meets their purposes, desires, impulses of the moment, as well as the various alternatives seen as available.” In other words, Barnard recognized that in order to elicit cooperation, the leader needed to
present a compelling enough purpose making the cooperation worthwhile. To Barnard, the organizational involvement of leaders called for more than their “sweat and brain,” it required being committed to a “goal that is beyond self, not within self” (Wolf, 1974, p. 48). He goes further by saying that the cooperation required for sustainability “must come from the spirit; it cannot come from a brute selfishness” (Wolf, 1974, p. 48). Similarly, Ramey (1991, p. 3) expresses that “leadership without faith is the unfocused demonstration of technique, an exercise in self expression without lasting value.” McMahon and Carr (1999) add another perspective when they say that it is only through the “continued willingness to co-operate in the organization” that balance or equilibrium is achieved. It is precisely this commitment to secure sustainability what Barnard defines as efficiency (Barnard, 1938; McMahon and Carr, 1999).
A contribution of lasting public value Barnard (1938) defines a contribution as those activities resulting from the effort of the members of the organization, but also as those that result from a surplus of the efforts of those same members. This definition is important because it illustrates that for Barnard, the contributions resulting from an organizational system are always greater than those by its individual members. Therefore, he explains that although the system needs coordination of efforts, and “although persons are agents of the action, the action is not personal” (Barnard, 1938, p. 77). What Barnard alludes to is that for the organization to truly contribute an outcome of lasting public value, the individual contributions will be only instrumental, but will not amount to its total. This is a very Gestaltic perspective. According to Wolf (1974, p. 75), in order to understand Barnard’s framework, it is important to understand “the relation of the general purpose of complex organizations to specialized purposes of unit organizations.”
Barnard’s (1938, p. 283; 1995) understanding of contributions hints to transformational leadership, especially since the responsibility of the leader is “to bind the wills of men to the accomplishment of purposes beyond their immediate ends”. Ramey (1991), for his part, sees contributions of lasting public value as those that result from strengthening the quality of life and the quality of work, as any change in these will automatically affect the quality of society and the organization’s contribution to it. This also matches Barnard’s views, since he believes that individual contributions must serve to further the organizational purpose (Wolf, 1974). The furtherance of the organizational purpose, therefore, can be understood as a way to ensure the sustainability of the organization, and thus, the contribution will have a lasting value to society. In interpreting Barnard, for example, Gehani (2002) considers that organizations need to develop competitive advantage to maintain their sustainability, and that this sustainability can only result from the contributions made by its members. In fact, Gehani (2002, p. 986) suggests that Barnard’s views on contributions are in line with “the emerging knowledge-based view of the firm,” where members “contribute to the organizational pool of common knowledge” that sustains the organization in the long run.
The quality of life Personal integrity, relational integrity, community investment, and vocational integrity are the four characteristics that Ramey (1991, p. 15) associates with the quality of life. The author also mentions authenticity as a crucial element, which as Novicevic et al. (2005)
say, adds transparency to a leader’s intentions. Similarly, Barnard (1938, 1995), in defining the individual, notes that this unique being is moved by motives, intuition, morals, and social needs which, at times, may be in conflict with those of the organization. Barnard’s attention to the quality of life is evident in his advocacy of moral responsibility as a source of effective leadership (Aupperle and Dunphy, 2001). Because “the destruction of the sense of personal integrity is the destruction of the power of adaptation” that is needed for cooperation, it is the responsibility of the leader to consciously coordinate the personal activities of the members (Barnard 1938, p. 13). Barnard recommends doing this by establishing “conditions under which individual pride of craft and of accomplishment can be secured without destroying the material economy of standardized production in cooperative operation” (Barnard, 1938, p. 94).
According to Barnard, finding the way to motivate in this manner is the challenge of efficient leadership. Individuals can achieve considerably when motivation transforms. Levitt and March in Williamson (1995, p. 13), note that for Barnard transformation is desirable when “a multitude of conflicting, self-interested, strategic actors [are transformed] into a single rational system that can act consistently in the name of future consequences evaluated with respect to future preferences.” This transformation for which leaders are responsible then, has a strategic nature that makes it dynamic and contingent on its effect on the quality of work and society. Barnard seems to understand that “rational processes are not perfect, that under some circumstances they may be less intelligent than alternative processes” (Levitt and March in Williamson, 1995, p. 15), which allows for more personal intuitions and morals to find their place within organizational processes and leadership. In doing so, Barnard also understood that personal choice and experience adds competitive advantage to an executive’s strategic contribution, which reflects the human relations underpinnings of his work.
It is clear that Barnard’s executive is a knowledge worker that combines moral responsibility with technical experience; one capable of “developing strategies to minimize resistance in the change process,” as described by Ramey (1991, p. 167). This commitment characterizes responsible and “effective leaders interested in advancing the quality of life” (Ramey, 1991, p. 167). From Barnard’s perspective, most people do not like the responsibility that comes with leadership, hence the need for an “elite worker” who understands and consciously accepts the role of authority, intuition, and decision making to “facilitate or hinder other decisions in the effective or efficient operation of the organization,” including resolving conflict (Barnard, 1938, p. 211; McMahon and Carr, 1999; Nam and Lemak, 2007; Wolf, 1973).
In explaining Barnard’s role during his time at the Rockefeller Foundation, Ryan and Scott (1995) suggest that Barnard framed morality within rational and scientific reason as opposed to Christian thought. That is why for him responsibility was a conscious choice and trust was the basis of cooperation. As Ryan and Scott (1995) explain, the ethics framework for the Foundation’s debate on ethics encompassed theological knowledge on one end and a naturalistic approach on the other. Within the naturalistic side of the continuum, moral decisions could be further classified depending on whether individuals had collectivist or individualistic tendencies. Individualists rely on their own reason to make their moral decisions and cooperate with others, while collectivists rely on the community to make moral decisions, since the individual is part of an interdependent system where the parts cooperate to benefit the whole. Instead of reason alone, collectivists rely also on emotions and intuition as sources of knowledge.
Barnard, although on the naturalistic side, espoused a rational balance between individualists and collectivists, yet with a more collectivist focus than his other colleagues, which explains his conceptualization of cooperation, responsibility, and even the characteristics of leadership. The question for Barnard was, as cited by Ryan and Scott (1995, p. 448), “How far is an individual member of a formal organization [. . .] ethically obligated to go in behavior which would be immoral if he were acting in his individual capacity?”
It was mentioned earlier that Barnard conceptualizes the commitment of a leader as a vocation – he likens it to that of a teacher – that requires a conscious choice (Wolf, 1973; Mahoney, 2002). According to Mahoney (2002) this conscious choice is rooted in free will, which is an element that is central to Barnard’s definition of a morally responsible leader, and is “necessary to preserve a sense of personal integrity” (Barnard, 1938, p. 13). Levitt and March in Williamson (1995, p. 14) dissect Barnard’s views on the intelligence of learning, and conclude that “Barnard was right on observing that rationality, in practice, frequently leads organizations astray.” That is possibly why Barnard identified leadership characteristics that would work in all situations and some, like honesty, character, and intuition that were situation specific and more rooted in free, conscious volition (Novicevic et al., 2009). In his experience, he must have observed that it was by these situation-specific characteristics that the moral elite could be recognized, and that it was their conscious choice what made them morally responsible in their actions. As Levitt and March explain, “routines are independent of the individual actors who execute them” and yet, because the actors are part of a system, they still influence these routines while contributing learning and growth in the organization (Williamson, 1995). In this regard, Barnard’s conceptualization of organizational commitment as a vocation seems to make sense, since the leader’s “teaching” and the organization’s “learning” would need to combine technical routines with more intuitive creativity to be both efficient and effective.
Similar to Barnard, Ramey (1991, p. 74) explains that “the vocationally mature see work as at once self-fulfilling and contributing to the quality of our own and other’s lives.” Furthermore, Ramey (1991) believes that a full commitment to the duties of a job is a mark of integrity that defines authentic leadership, which is similar to Barnard’s views as expressed in his 1936 commencement address, cited earlier (Wolf, 1974). Ultimately, the quality of life is essential to the sustainability of the organization because it addresses the individual qualities that characterize the leader “and the quality of leadership” to be exercised (Barnard, 1938, p. 282).
Quality of work Ramey (1991) calls quality of work the capacity to exercise organizational leadership. A true leader, therefore, would be the one that realizes that in strengthening the quality of work, the quality of life, and the quality of society are also advanced. But for this to be true, according to Barnard (1938), quality work needs to exhibit integrity and a meaningful purpose that goes beyond the attainment of simple goals. This may be tied to the vocational aspect discussed earlier. Ramey (1991, p. 76) actually says that “vocational leadership demonstrates an intimate association of one’s personal values with the public impact of one’s work.” In the case of Barnard, the public impact of work is a result of commitment to responsible cooperation. As Gehani (2002, p. 986) explains, for Barnard “cooperation helps an executive achieve a surplus outcome far greater than
attainable by an individual alone and is even greater than the sum of efforts of all the individuals involved.” According to Gehani (2002, p. 986), Barnard believes that the “distribution of those surpluses produces the psychological satisfaction and material incentives necessary to motivate people to contribute to the competitive performance of their organizations.” It is not, as Scott (1994, p. 171) suggests, necessary to “submerge the interests of the individual to the interests of the collective” because voluntary cooperation is the result of genuine motivation.
For organizations to commit to improving the quality of work, however, Barnard suggests that they need leaders who coordinate cooperation effectively and efficiently by “adapting their internal processes to the changing external environments” (Gehani, 2002, p. 986; Barnard, 1995). Additionally, Barnard’s leader must coordinate cooperation through “the distribution and alignment of incentives and social factors with the organization’s competitive strategy” (Gehani, 2002, p. 986). Novicevic et al. (2009, p. 156), explain how Barnard also stressed this concept in his second book, Organization and Management, published in 1948, where he described leadership as “crucial for cooperative adaptations within the firm to occur.” It is precisely the leader’s purposeful style what ignites “the followers’ voluntary and coordinated change of behavior to accommodate the change initiative pursued by the leader” (Novicevic et al., 2009, 156). The key, nonetheless, is that the change of behavior although coordinated, is voluntary. As Novicevic et al. (2009, p. 157) explain, Barnard was a pragmatist who believed that the individual “is the author of action”, and this free will applies as much to followers as it does to leaders.
The complexity of Barnard’s leader lies in the need to be both effective and efficient. While effectiveness is summarized by Wolf (1974, p. 69) as the achievement of the “ends sought by the organization,” efficiency is understood as the “extent that personal motives are satisfied” at the individual level. Yet, as Barnard (1938, p. 259) explains, both are necessary because “all these elements of organization, in which the moral factor finds its concrete expression, spell the necessity for leadership.” Therefore, it seems that effectiveness could be associated with managerial processes and efficiency with the more elusive leadership ones, especially since it involves coordination, which Barnard sees as a creative element. The reason for seeing coordination as a creative aspect is based on Barnard’s belief that coordination can only be achieved through cooperation which, in turn, relies on motivation and the proper understanding of the concepts of authority and persuasion, which rely more on artistic subjectivity. As Novicevic et al. (2009, p. 157) point, for Barnard, “the quality of leading people should be complemented by the quality of managing organizational assets.”
In explaining Barnard’s description of a leader, Novicevic et al. (2009) note how in order to keep themselves adaptable to situational contingencies, leaders need to know how to coordinate the efforts of followers by transforming their followers’ unique abilities and skills into purposeful actions. It is this constant balance between getting followers to voluntarily give their very best, and actually getting the work of the organization done, where leaders need to be strategic by choosing the right incentives to entice them. In Barnard’s mind, therefore, an executive leader is a unique individual who needs to “understand interdependence between human actions and organization systems because ‘every act of organization is also an act of some individual and is his contribution to the organization’” (Barnard, 1948, as quoted by Novicevic et al., 2009, p. 159). Consequently, Barnard identified the characteristics that leaders should have.
Characteristics such as “vitality and endurance; decisiveness; persuasiveness; responsibility; and intellectual capacity” were necessary regardless of the situation, while “honesty/character; courage; and intuition” were more situation specific because they are based on personal construction of reality (Novicevic et al., 2009, p. 158). Barnard’s acknowledgement of a self-referent criterion is remarkable not only because it hints to personal experience and choice as important aspects of practice, but also because it makes leadership effectiveness dynamic and unique.
Nam and Lemak (2007) explain that Barnard’s view on authority within a cooperative system was controversial at the time it came out because it asserted that authority “ultimately rests at the bottom of the organization, not at the top,” which means that authority must be accepted rather than imposed (Nam and Lemak, 2007, p. 34; Barnard, 1995). Burnes (2007, p. 220), on the other hand, notes that the implications of Barnard’s view on authority and cooperation are that “if workers [do] not give their cooperation willingly, the enterprise [will] not prosper.” Specifically, Barnard recognized that “authority was another name for the willingness and capacity of individuals to submit to the necessities of cooperative systems” (Barnard, 1938, p. 184; 1995), which hints to a situational approach later developed by Hersey and Blanchard’s leadership model. In fact, Barnard’s pragmatic conceptualization of leadership in terms of voluntary cooperation (willingness) and ability is quite similar to Hersey and Blanchard’s model in that, according to Novicevic et al. (2009), it also identifies three variables: the leader, the followers, and the situation.
To advance the quality of work, therefore, Barnard identifies the need of a leader that masters communication, motivation, “observational feeling” (i.e. high-context, self-monitoring), and persuasion to align workers to cooperate towards the achievement of the organizational purpose (Barnard, 1938, 1995). In doing this, the leader “promotes spontaneous activity by nurturing other individuals’ goals and [. . .provides] equitable distribution of system resources” (Gehani, 2002, p. 987). Barnard’s leaders are also flexible when looking for solutions to problems since, as the “author[s] of action,” they will be quite aware of the uniqueness of the situation and that of the followers they will persuade to secure cooperation (Novicevic et al., 2009). As Shulstad (2009, p. 12) explains, “leadership has the fundamental responsibility of making expectations clear and creating an environment where people can succeed.” Barnard would probably change the end of Shulstad’s sentence by adding that what leaders need to do is create an environment where people can cooperate. It is in this cooperation, if morally responsible, that people succeed by fulfilling their organizational purpose, which not only advances the quality of work, but also the sustainability of the organization.
Quality of society Barnard was probably the first to “recognize the importance of stakeholders to the corporation” (Schwartz, 2007, p. 47; Lamond, 2005). Barnard (1958, p. 7) naturally called this “importance” a “responsibility” of the organization, which included “those relating to the interest of competitors, communities, government, and society in general.” Mahoney et al. (1994) note how other researchers have reported that stakeholders value social responsibility as akin to management skill. Similarly, the characteristics that Ramey (1991, p. 15) associates with the quality of society are: cooperative partnerships, consistent operational values, future modeling, and environmental and social analysis. In the systems perspective that characterized Barnard’s view of the world,
the organization, and the individual, interdependence figured prominently. According to Mahoney et al. (1994, p. 158), it is in society where “businesses are inextricably bound to each other in a complex web of ongoing interdependencies.” Naturally, any interdependence calls for accountability. For Barnard, an executive exercised his social responsibility through organizational accountability in his cooperative efforts, which is also where his authority resided. In his conceptualization of authority, there was an implicit understanding of cooperative trust as an essential legitimizer of such authority. Therefore, the only way in which a fellow employee would not question the authority of a communication was if he or she believed it to be congruent with personal and organizational interests. As Mahoney (2002) clarifies, this ability to persuade legitimized authority through trust.
Like Barnard, Mitchell and Scott (1987) argued that although perception of trust on the part of society is essential for balanced interdependence, the real trust comes from personal commitment to accountability, which the authors identify as stewardship. This is important because it draws attention to the importance of the leader in maintaining the balance between the quality of work and society through the exercise of free will. After all, an organization does not exist in a vacuum, instead it is a system that is part of a greater system, thus affecting it while being influenced by it too (Wren and Greenwood, 1998). In his business experience, this fact became clear to Barnard (1938, p. viii-ix), who noticed that organizations played a key role in the social structure of society, and as such, should be considered its backbone or, as he calls them in The Functions of the Executive, “the principal structural aspect of society.”
In the preface of the 1938 edition of The Functions of the Executive, Barnard (1938, p. xi) explained that “the purposeful and constructive activities of men in present society are governed by formal organizations,” the same organizations that “provide the structure and processes of social systems.” Not only does Barnard portray organizations as the backbone of society, but he also implicitly hints that executives are responsible for coordinating their social responsibility efforts (Aupperle and Dunphy, 2001; Dunphy and Hoopes, 2002). Organizational responsibility, therefore, was considered by Barnard as a direct result of the free will of the executive who would put organizational – and thus – societal duty ahead of personal gain. According to Mahoney (2002, p. 167), responsibility was for Barnard “the most important function of the executive” because it was responsibility what determined “the quality of action.” This function would balance the internal integration of organizational efforts and the external adaptation of the firm to societal and economic conditions.
For Barnard, the “survival of an organization depends upon the maintenance of an equilibrium of complex character in a continuously fluctuating environment of physical, biological, and social material, elements, and forces” (Barnard, 1938, p. 6; 1995). In this belief, Barnard channels Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological analysis, seeing organizational leaders as the “elite” that maintains the equilibrium “when their leadership expresses the inchoate sentiments of the masses and fulfills their needs” (Scott, 1992, p. 45). The homeostasis of the system, therefore, can only occur in interdependent cooperation among the individual, the organization, and the society in which it exists (Aupperle and Dunphy, 2001; Humphreys and Einstein, 2003; Ramey, 1991).
For Barnard, the quality of society is dependent on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organizational leaders to motivate employees to cooperate towards the achievement of the moral obligations that the organization has with its stakeholders (Aupperle and
Dunphy, 2001). As indicated by Williamson (2005, p. 24), Barnard’s view was key to the development of transaction cost economic theory, where the organization is viewed as a governance structure instead of a simple production one. When viewed in that light, the concept of cooperative adaptation becomes a direct result of the firm’s administrators through purposeful efforts that transcend by going beyond simple transactions (Williamson, 2005). It is, in fact, this purposeful view what makes organizations’ instruments capable of adapting to changing conditions in society (Williamson, 2005). Precisely because Barnard deemed the system of society unstable, the need for organizational leadership to continually evolve and change organizational purpose was paramount to sustain the quality of society while maintaining organizational legacy. To illustrate this point, Barnard (1938, p. 282) noted that the sustainability of organizations exist “in proportion to the breadth of morality by which they are governed.” After all, Barnard believed that survival in society “is the only meaningful measure of an organization’s efficiency” (Williamson, 1995, p. 7). Ramey (1991, p. 11) agrees, and predicts that the sustainability of the organization will greatly depend on how organizational leaders “enlist the support of [the] publics and provide a lasting value to society and its fundamental purposes.”
According to Barnard (1958, p. 7), the social responsibility of the organization also exists because as a “legally authorized fiction,” it is capable of moral and immoral action. Borrowing from Barnard’s views on cooperative behavior, Mahoney et al. (1994, p. 162), suggest that a conscious effort must be made to establish a social contract that ensures a balance “between the individual and the firm and between business and society.” This social contract only can be established by authentic and responsible leaders; by those willing and capable of articulating a compelling vision of organization that motivates others to subordinate their individual wants in order to contribute to fulfill the organization’s mission in society. Implicit in that belief is the notion that when organizations inspire their members to go beyond self-interest, the quality of work is improved, which in turn, improves the quality of society, which also ultimately improves the quality of life of the individual. This is the point that Scott (1994, p. 171) seems to miss when he dismisses the social contract as a way of “submerging the interest of the individual to the interests of the collective.” After all, the collective is made of individuals and their interests. When there is balance among the three qualities, instead of submerging their interests, they will simply be cooperating with others to achieve them. An authentic and morally responsible leader at the helm of the organization will be the only one capable of advancing the cooperation that is necessary to improve the quality of work and the quality of society.
Conclusion As Andrews notes in his introduction to the thirtieth anniversary edition of The Functions of the Executive, Barnard’s (1938) legacy to the field of management stands on its own quality, yet the lack of references to Barnard’s contributions and insights in the current management and leadership literature may signal a lack of interest on understanding what makes organizations essential parts of a society’s system, as well as to what makes leaders both effective and efficient. In the current business environment, where self-interest and immediate gratification have become the norm, moral responsibility, cooperation, and authentic leadership cannot continue to be ignored. As Mahoney et al. (1994, p. 157) suggested long ago “it is not sufficient to
relegate business ethics to a separate field of inquiry [. . .] we need to integrate practical business ethics into our research and teaching.” As the authors argue, if discussion about ethics and moral responsibility can address management issues effectively, ignoring the discussion because it is not logical or scientific shows a lack of insight on how systems work and the kind of impact that each part has on the whole. Rao (in Hesselbein and Goldsmith, 2009), shares how the best and brightest employees are looking for concepts such as trust, justice, transparency, learning, competence, fun, and flexibility in their organizations, and suggests that progressive organizations of the future need to fulfill these needs by modeling them in their business practices. As a pragmatist and managerial philosopher, Barnard’s contributions and observations continue to provide a fresh look into the intricacies of organizations and the qualities that its leaders must possess. Clearly, it is time to revisit his legacy once again by focusing especially on how his contributions can further elucidate the leadership construct.
Hartley (2006, p. 280) shares that “reflecting on past experiences may be seen as a prerequisite to taking future action.” Consequently, re-discovering Barnard as a leadership thinker might be necessary in this age of organizational disappointment characterized by moral irresponsibility, inefficient leadership and ineffective management; a problem that might be, in part, a result of the perceived gap between the fields of management and leadership practice. As a man of vision, Barnard’s insights describe the need for a leader that is systemic and synergistic in combining managerial effectiveness with leadership efficiency, so a review of Barnard’s contributions will remind twenty-first century leaders that organizational success can only exist through morally responsible cooperation resulting from the “authentic capacity of a leader to balance the responsibilities for private freedom, and public obligation” (Novicevic and Harvey, 2006, p. 64). Unless addressed in business schools and embodied by practitioners, the lack of moral responsibility in leadership will continue to erode society’s trust in organizations. The gravity of this abuse, according to Mahoney et al. (1994, p. 156), is that once trust has been abused, it will affect productivity since both are “inextricably linked.” “What the field needs is [. . .] people who can both understand and excel at the practical demands of business while remaining introspective and thoughtful in their pursuit of moral excellence” (Ryan and Scott, 1995, p. 457). There is no doubt that “the organization of the future is dedicated to a cause greater than itself, determined to improve the well-being of a significant chunk of society” (Rao in Hesselbein and Goldsmith, 2009).
This paper highlighted Barnard’s life, as well as his brilliance, as a pioneer philosopher in the field of management, but also presented him as a groundbreaking leadership thinker, whose insights not only help to bridge the perceived gap between management and leadership, but whose contributions can be reinterpreted in ways that enrich the leadership construct. The affinity between Barnard’s conceptualization of the organization as an interdependent system of voluntary cooperation grounded in morally responsible behavior was found to be very akin to Ramey’s (1991) leadership quality commitments. Consequently, Barnard’s concept of cooperation was re-discovered as the foundation of a leadership framework that places the executive at the center of a system responsible for balancing the unstable equilibrium among life, work, and society in a moral and responsible way. Barnard’s seminal contribution suggesting the balance of the structural requirements of the organization with the socio-human system needs (Schwartz, 2007), seems to be as critical now as it was when Barnard first presented it, if not more.
Barnard certainly challenges twenty-first century leaders to discover that “authenticity reflects a leader’s moral capacity to align responsibilities to the self, to the followers and to the public in efforts to sustain cooperative efforts within and outside of the organization” (Novicevic and Harvey, 2006, p. 73). As Novicevic and Harvey (2006, p. 71) note, a “crisis of executive authenticity reflects moral paralysis of action” which, according to Barnard, leads to poor organizational performance. Seven decades after the publication of The Functions of the Executive, Barnard’s contributions still remind executives and society, in general, that “when managerial values exercise increasing influence not just within the corporation but in all of society, it is important that we not mislead ourselves by overestimating how humane and bottom-up corporations are capable of being” (Hoopes, 2002, p. 1022). This is particularly relevant now that the millennial generation is beginning to demand that organizations become more humane and socially responsible in their behavior. Certainly, as Mahoney et al. (1994, p. 155) suggest, it is time to stop thinking that “any action beyond that of narrow self-interest is irrational and invites [one to be] labeled a sucker.” As both Ramey’s (1991) framework suggests, and Barnard (1948, p. 84) explains, “the quality of the behavior of individuals whereby they guide people or their activities in organized effort”, requires a special type of person; a person willing and capable of calculating the impact of his or her actions. As such, Ryan and Scott (1995, p. 457) urge business leaders and professors to engage themselves and others in elevating “the level of their moral thinking and discourse.” No one is better suited than Barnard to model and explore these principles. Ryan and Scott (1995, p. 457) encourage business students, in particular to “learn to understand, choose, and hold strong moral precepts” in order to balance their technical preparation with a sophisticate moral intellect. Seemingly, Ryan and Scott (1995, p. 458) see in this balance “the only route to the moral elightment and organizational virtue that will enable managers of quality to reconcile their private interests with their public responsibilities.”
Shulstad (2009, p. 13) says that the leadership thinker Warren Bennis observed that “failing organizations are usually overmanaged and underled.” However, Barnard (1938) warns that if unbalanced focus is placed on the understanding of leadership without a sound comprehension of its management dimension, organizations may risk failing precisely for being overled and undermanaged. Given the current state of organizational failure around the world, the time has come to listen to Barnard once again. As Rao (in Hesselbein and Goldsmith, 2009, p. 48) suggests, the success of the organization of the future lies in the understanding that “success stems from the deep identification with all its stakeholders and their collective knowledge that the organization’s success is also their success.”
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Corresponding author Susana Fernández can be contacted at: [email protected]
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