evolutionary leadership — hierarchy and linearity: overblown truths

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another insight gibrán shared at evolutionary leadership is that hierarchy is a myth. the example was the workplace, but i’m seeing that this actually holds true for many other places and also maybe the entire idea of linearity.

the idea can be summed up in two simple drawings (which gibrán drew). essentially, dominant culture, structures, and institutions tell us that the world works like this:

hierarchical organizational structure

but in reality it works like this:

hierarchical organization structure with lines demonstrating how different people are connected via relationships

so, the insight is that we should actually stop pretending or being fooled (depending on your role in “the system”) by a model of the world that is false and start working, living, and moving through the world in the way that it actually works.

i’ve actually had this sense for many years, but these words and illustrations have made them real. i’ve had this sense because of how i’ve gotten work (almost always via some recommendation or referral) and because of how i see other people join organizations i’m already a part of. this is most simply demonstrated by the “hey, can you put in a good word for me?” phenomenon. also, even when people do go through formal hiring processes, the people who advance to the next round are often the ones with the most connections inside the org (or connections to people who have connections inside the org).

my big question here (which i have some inkling of the answers to) is why does the world claim it works in a way in which it doesn’t? and who benefits from that narrative? ok, one last thing. the reason i’m beginning to believe that this idea of hierarchy and linearity is overblown is my tomato plants. when a tomato plant grows, often between the main stem and a branch of leaves a new branch can sprout.

what’s crazy about this new branch is that it is an entirely new stem. it can have the exact same fundamental structure as the main plant stem, but completely supported by the main stem. now, many tomato growers believe that you should pinch off your suckers because they draw resources away from the tomatoes that grow on the rest of the plant and can also make the plant structure unstable. but i’m wondering what might happen if you didn’t do that… next year i will be running some very different tomato experiments…

photo of tomato plant with a sucker growing

ps - none of this is to say that hierarchy and linearity aren’t real at all or valuable at all. it’s just to point out that the dominant way things work (definitely in nature and, therefore, also in human systems) isn’t hierarchical or linear. most things are relational, interdependent, non-hierarchical, complex, and non-linear. well, at least that’s my theory for now.

strong beliefs, loosely held, right?

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