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Management article
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Reference no. 97611
Authors: Abraham Zaleznik
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 1997
Length: 7 pages

Abstract

In this HBR Classic, originally published in January-February 1989, Abraham Zaleznik, a psychoanalyst and the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, observes that many senior executives are substituting the rituals of ''psychopolitics'' - the balancing of social expectations in the workplace - for the real work of thinking about and acting on ideas relating to products, markets, and customers. In his retrospective commentary, Zaleznik writes that senior executives seem to have established a healthier balance in the 1990s between their real work and psychopolitics. Executives are now leading their companies to deal with external, competitive conditions that require them to cut costs, create products, please customers, and develop markets. What worries Zaleznik today, however, is that under the guise of employee empowerment, senior executives are beginning again to indulge in ritualized actions. For instance, they establish task forces to seek answers to questions they themselves should be addressing. The real work of the executive, says Zaleznik, should always include the thinking that informs and directs action. Zaleznik consults to business and government, and his most recent book, Learning Leadership, was published in 1993. In addition to ''Real Work'', he has authored five previous HBR articles.

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Abstract

In this HBR Classic, originally published in January-February 1989, Abraham Zaleznik, a psychoanalyst and the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, observes that many senior executives are substituting the rituals of ''psychopolitics'' - the balancing of social expectations in the workplace - for the real work of thinking about and acting on ideas relating to products, markets, and customers. In his retrospective commentary, Zaleznik writes that senior executives seem to have established a healthier balance in the 1990s between their real work and psychopolitics. Executives are now leading their companies to deal with external, competitive conditions that require them to cut costs, create products, please customers, and develop markets. What worries Zaleznik today, however, is that under the guise of employee empowerment, senior executives are beginning again to indulge in ritualized actions. For instance, they establish task forces to seek answers to questions they themselves should be addressing. The real work of the executive, says Zaleznik, should always include the thinking that informs and directs action. Zaleznik consults to business and government, and his most recent book, Learning Leadership, was published in 1993. In addition to ''Real Work'', he has authored five previous HBR articles.

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