In 1938 New Jersey Bell Telephone Company President, Chester I. Barnard, published a book entitled, The Functions of the Executive. Barnard’s book laid out his understanding of leadership.
Challenging the Status Quo
Academics of organizational behaviour were puzzled over Barnard’s ideas. Some even thought his ideas were radical. This is because Barnard challenged the traditional thinking of the day. Leadership, back in the 1930’s was thought of as power individuals had over others. That one’s ultimate power within a group lied in the position they held within an organization.
Authority Versus Influence
Barnard believed that the ultimate source of power resided not within the individual who carried the authority, or even with the organization that bestowed power upon them. Rather, he opined that the ‘authority of position’ ultimately rested with subordinate individuals on whom the authority was supposed to act.
According to Barnard, it was obvious that some people had superior abilities. That the knowledge and understanding of various subjects these individuals had, regardless of positions within organizations, naturally commanded respect among others. Barnard’s writings were a radical departure from the long held belief that leadership was merely created by title and position rather than influence that an individual could wield among others.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business Blogger