In Business Schools all over the country and beyond we tend to focus on large and often multinational corporations, and the overarching focus on providing shareholders with the greatest possible return on investment has been identified as one potential contributor to the 2008 financial crisis (see for example https://www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2013/05/15/the-responsibility-of-business-schools-in-training-ethical-leaders-2/#3102f64960bd).
My current research leads to conversations with barbers, microbrewers, tattoo artists, baristas, tailors, street artists and denim heads who are participating in the resurgence of traditional trades rather than CEOs of multinational corporations. These entrepreneurs all have two things in common and that is the importance of having a trade and a purpose that goes beyond only making a living. They all refer to their colleagues as an integral part to their success, and they don’t define themselves as managers or leaders, but as master brewers or floor sweepers. They have an identity, authenticity and presence that go way beyond any suit and tie.
Talking with these individuals I am becoming more and more convinced that Goliath has much to learn from David. Whilst David believes in success with and through his people, Goliath too often believes in success despite of his people. Whilst David is acknowledging individual contributions, Goliath is often referring to staff as replaceable overheads. Whilst David is focusing on providing the best possible service or product, Goliath is more concerned about often meaningless and short term KPIs. Whilst David’s eye is on securing sustainable organisational success, Goliath’s is on personal short term success, sometimes at the cost of his very own existence.
Yes, David also needs to be successful and make a living, but he has a whole different approach to doing so which I believe Goliath can learn from.
Professor Rune Todnem By