“We find the true man only through organization. The potentialities of the individual remain potentialities until they are released by group life. Man discovers his true nature, gains his true freedom only through the group.”
Mary Parker Follett, The New State: Group Organization the Solution of Popular Government.
Mary Parker Follett, known as the “Mother of Modern Management,” was born today, September 3, 1868, into a wealthy Massachusetts Quaker family. Joan C. Tonn, in the introduction of her book Mary P. Follett, Creating Democracy, Transforming Management, describes Mary Parker Follett as having a warm voice and a stylish wit. Her strength was centered on her ability to listen attentively and enjoy conversations that welcomed a diversity of opinion. She fervently believed that working together, embracing differences, had the potential to generate new thought, new ideas. It was all about collaboration.
Mary Parker Follett was the first woman to receive an invitation to address the London School of Economics and was sought after by President Theodore Roosevelt to be his personal consultant for managing not-for-profits and volunteer organizations. As we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Mary Parker Follett’s book, The New State, there has been a resurgence in revisiting her theories, which cover a broad spectrum from management and public administration to social work, mediation and dispute resolution.
Dr. Carolan McLarney has explored the remarkable life of Mary Parker Follett since her doctoral days. In her May 15, 2018 post, Dr. McLarney discussed Mary Parker’s thoughts on Group Membership.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mary Parker Follett’s birth, Irena Stropnik MBA (FS) Class of 2012, shared her thoughts on Group Membership in response to Dr. McLarney’s article.
Dr. McLarney’s discussion of Mary Parker Follett’s theories on Group Membership has provided me with much food for thought, given our current realities. Many of Mary Parker Follett’s ideas ring true in today’s world. We are in desperate need of ‘quality men/group members’ and effective leaders to navigate the complexities and challenges of today’s world.
In reading through Dr. McLarney’s post, what struck me most was the importance of quality group members – not only willing to give their best but recognizing the importance that combined efforts build and add to the entire group. We must be committed to our own ideas but humble enough to listen to others and see how together, we can come up with an even better idea(s). This seems to contradict today’s individualistic society and norms. We are so busy looking out for ourselves and our own interests, that we fail to contribute to the larger society because we believe that, if the whole is better, we may somehow have less. Rather than judging others, seeing the potential in each other; to show empathy and endeavour to understand a situation from another person’s perspective.
Threaded throughout Dr. McLarney’s post was the notion of diversity (of thought, skill, effort, role) and inclusion (that we all must contribute to a better whole). The current business environment seems to understand this importance, but I believe, continues to struggle with how to really make his happen. How do we take into consideration everyone’s voice, their perspective, their thoughts? To me, the role of the leader is to orchestrate and facilitate this for teams. Whether it is a common vision or goal, or sometimes even stepping back to let others lead…we must consider how we want to function as a society and as business organizations.
“No member of a group which is to create can be passive. All must be active and constructively active. It is not, however, to be constructively active merely to add a share: it must be a share which is related to and bound up with every other share. And it must be given in such a way that it fits in with what others are giving. Someone said to me the other day, “Don’t you think Mr. X talks better than anyone else in Boston?” Well the fact is that Mr. X talks so well that I can never talk with him. Everything he says has such a ring of finality, is such a rounding up of the whole question, that it leaves nothing more to be said on the subject. This is particularly the kind of thing to be avoided in a committee meeting or conference.”
Mary Parker Follett, The New State: Group Organization the Solution of Popular Government. (1918, p.7)