Leaderless Organization



Amyriad of challenges have accompanied the evolving world that thecontemporary organizations must grapple with and make appropriateadjustments to keep abreast with the demands of the society andrealize the underlying goals. However, even the processes of settingthese strategies have not been straightforward — a dilemma andconfusion exist of what strategies would work best. For instance,while the players have traditionally contended the success oforganizations relies on the management and leadership ability,particularly lauding the scientific management principles, theconfidence towards these approaches has been challenged by a taste oftime. The emergence of the concept of ‘leaderless’ organizationhas been dramatic and has invited the question the place ofscientific management in practice. The concept of ‘leaderless’organization primarily describes a management approach in which thereis no real leader or boss, giving an allowance for subject to serveas a leader and manager through self-regulation, favoringdecentralized system. The popularity of ‘leaderless’ organizationis growing rapidly but has been met with divided views on its abilityto benefit society, compared with conventional centralized managementsystems.


Theviews expressed by Brafman and Beckstrom (2014)are perhaps the most widely inferred in assertions in favor ofleaderless organizations. In their discussion, Brafman and Beckstrom(2014)explore the significance of the emergence of decentralized organizedsuch as YouTube, Wikipedia, and Grokster, which are contrasted withcentralized organizations such as Encyclopædia Britannica. They alsoprovide historical examples of decentralized forms of organizationssuch as Apaches and Alcoholics Anonymous, delving into the analysisof their nature, in comparison with centralized and decentralizedsystems. The authors draw a distinction between the traditional‘spider’ management approaches characterized with linear andtop-down structures and ‘starfish’ management strategies that aredecentralized and heavily guided by peer-to-peer relationships. Theauthors present several advantages of leaderless organizations overcentralized systems, including the ability to accommodate chaos,increased participations, information sharing is open, and people aremore inspired to work creatively to realize success. Based on thesebenefits, the authors encourage organizations to move away fromcentralized structures to fully decentralized or hybridized toincrease the capability to meet their goals efficiently.

Thediscussion supporting leaderless organization is also reflected inJeffrey Nielsen (2004), in “The Myth of Leadership: Creatings”. The author begins by acknowledging thatthe contemporary organizations are not only so dynamic but have alsocomplex that call they call for a rethink for the hierarchicalapproaches to management of organizations, which have been renderedineffective. The author notes the hierarchical approaches havelimited individuals in the organizations the opportunities of sharingand contributing towards the success of team, cohesive andproductivity. Considering that people cannot contribute effectivelytowards organization success unless they are joyous, he notes thatthis joy is likely to arise when there is equality, which breeds opencommunication and sharing of ideas to the best interest of theorganizations. Nielsen lauds leaderless organization managementapproaches, which he sees to drive open communication and cooperationthat deliver success. On the contrary, centralized systems areparticularly unfavorable because they do not recognize the self-worthof all the employees, and only create tension using the rank-basedassumptions.


Whileleaderless management approach is acknowledged as being beneficial,some authors have asserted it could be limited in many respects. Oneof the disadvantages is the challenge to focus the organization`sactivities to the set vision. Lunenburg (2012) considers that visionis a crucial aspect of effective management, and having a centralizedstructure is more advantageous than a decentralized structure becauseit aligns all the levels of the organization with the set vision andpurpose. The centralized systems are more efficient because itcreates the allowance for the managers to set the visions andcommunicate strategies to the employees, establish standards toenable employees to work in one direction. The limitation of thedecentralized system is its inherent inability to make fastdecisions. Because there are many people involved in makingdecisions, reaching a consensus is likely to take long and hinderdevelopment. Therefore, the centralized system emerges as moreadvantageous because only a few people within the management teamsparticipate in making decisions for the rest of the organization, andthis can be achieved relatively fast. Moreover, according to Ja´n Za(2014), the leaderless organizations are more likely to be chaoticbecause members have diverse views, and each party is interested inhaving his/her views heard. Those whose views are not adopted maybecome disgruntled and discouraged, feeling sidelined. Besides, thereis a problem with control and accountability. This view follows that,in the case of any organization problem, there are not particularpersons to bear responsibility. Under these circumstances, thecentralized structures have been advocated as being more beneficial.

Itseems the issue of the leaderless organization plays effectively intheory X and theory Y, too. As discussed by Olugbenga (2014), on onehand, the leaderless organization concept is favored by theory X,which asserts that employees are always happy and self-driven to worktowards the organization goals with great responsibility. This theorypostulates employees are intrinsically motivated and always seek toaccept responsibility, and treat work as a natural part of thelifecycle. Therefore, they can operate efficiently under thedecentralized organization structure. In contrast, they Y assertemployees lack self-motivation and dislike work. Therefore, they needclose supervision and are likely to achieve the best results underthe centralized management structure (Nielsen,2011).


Inconclusion, this paper has explored the question of leaderlessorganizations in the contemporary society. The observation thatmotivated this review is that the popularity of ‘leaderless’organization is growing rapidly, but has been met with divided viewson its ability to benefit the organization, compared withconventional centralized management systems. Indeed, a review ofliterature mirrors this division. On one hand, leaderlessorganizations approach is noted to be beneficial because it canaccommodate chaos, increase participation, open up informationsharing, and inspire people to work creatively to realize success. Onthe other hand, leaderless organizations tend to be limited becauseit is unable to focus the organizations` activities to the setvision, the organization process is likely to be slow, and there is aproblem with control and accountability. These divisions are alsoreflected in theory X and theory Y, and wherein theory X asserts thatemployees are always happy and self-driven to work towards theorganization goals with great responsibility, requiring nosupervision. On the other hand, theory Y asserts employees are notintrinsically motivated, need close supervision, and are likely toachieve the best results under the centralized management structure.Therefore, the review will probably invite the question of whetherleaderless organizations are efficient. Certainly, the answer will goa long way in reconciling the division.


Brafman,O., &amp Beckstrom, R. A. (2014). Thestarfish and the spider: The unstoppable power of leaderlessorganizations.New York: Portfolio.

Ja´nZa´, B. (2014).Centralized and Decentralized Decision Making inOrganizations. Universityof Southern California and Queen’sUniversity

Lunenburg,F. (2012)Mechanistic-Organic Organizations—An Axiomatic Theory:Authority Based on Bureaucracy or Professional Norms. InternationalJournal Of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity4(1): 23- 34

Nielsen,J. S. (2011). Themyth of leadership: Creating leaderless organizations.Boston, Massachusetts London [England]: Davies-Black, 2011. ©2004

Olugbenga,A. (2014). Applicationof Motivation Theories in the Construction Industry. OSRJournal of Business and Management.16(7): 2319-2324