“More than one hundred years after the publication of her first book in 1896, Mary P. Follett (1868–1933) remains one of our preeminent thinkers about democracy and social organization. Without the benefit of modern research methods, Follett developed such original, penetrating analyses of leadership, power and authority, conflict, and group behavior that her ideas form the basis of much of our modern discourse about organizations and management.”
Tonn, P. J. C. (2003). Mary P. Follett: Creating Democracy, Transforming Management [Kindle iOS version Location 113].
The New State by Mary Parker Follett is not an easy read. The concepts presented within the pages of a book published 100 years ago, continues to inspire us to think deeply and consider individual responsibility within a group dynamic.
Mary Parker Follett’s greatest gift was her ability to listen intently to everyone, irrespective of their “position” in society – factory workers, shop girls, or presidents of large corporations. She believed that every voice counted – and it was not lip service. She was above all a determined pragmatist with a philosophy that we can organize our lives and institutions so that everyone can contribute. While we may consider this rather optimistic, I have seen glimpses of this possibility. We live in a world that thrives on complexity, but I believe that resilience comes when individuals participate in a greater, more inclusive, conversation.
As we prepare to welcome a New Year, the last word belongs to a woman who passionately believed in the reality of integrating the diversity of cultures for the greater good. Mary Parker Follett valued differences, maintaining that together we gain strength and renewal, as individuals, as groups, as a society.
To complete our series on Mary Parker Follett, I am joined by Annie Giraudou, MBS(FS)Class of 2007 and Yvonne Thevenot MBA(FS) Class of 2001, who have been following Dr. McLarney’s series on Mary Parker Follett.
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I have enjoyed reading “The New State” by Mary Parker Follett. I find I must take time to reflect on the ideas brought forth. One phrase stands out for me “There is a need for competent leaders and a need for competent group members”. We are seeing more research and novels focusing on the need for “followers”; emphasis being that we cannot all be leaders and that someone must effectively do the work. This is directly related to the obligation as a member to take that position seriously and contribute to the success of the team; not just the leader, but the entire team. I am seeing similar views on the extrovert versus introvert position. Could there be something to more Eastern cultures who favour “introversion” and team member contribution? Unbelievably, this question of requiring both types to make an efficient team and society was put to paper 100 years ago by Mary Parker Follett! Maybe it is about time we looked at all types to create a more balanced society.
It is fascinating in business to see the emergence of “Agile” implementation framed as a new concept for organizing structures. Or in change management the idea of “listening posts” or “Ask Me Anything” sessions… This discussion and highlighting key aspects of the work from such a prominent thinker as Mary Parker Follett through the practical today’s language of Dr. McLarney truly demonstrates to me how long it takes for societal change to truly evolve. Thank you for sharing!
“The most successful leader of all is the one who sees another picture not yet actualized. He sees the things which are not yet there… Above all, he should make his co-workers see that it is not his purpose which is to be achieved, but a common purpose, born of the desires and the activities of the group.”
Mary Parker Follett