Charles Handy

What do you see as the key attributes that make leaders successful? Passion. They really have to believe in what they do. Ironically, this means they can occasionally believe in very bad things. Most effective leaders, therefore, also have a moral compass. They’ve also got to be quite tough in order to deliver their passion. The effective leaders that I’ve met are a strange combination … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

The leader’s first job is to be a missionary, to remind people what is special about them and their institutions. Second it is to set up the infrastructure for that to happen—not the superstructure, not to take the actual decisions, but to set the support systems, the people in place. The two go together; it’s no good having a brilliant strategy and structure and great … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

The interesting thing about organizations is that they can make the assumption that they’re never going to die. And the reason that you stay immortal is you have discovered what’s unique about you. The job of the leader is to work that out. To express it. Very few leaders succeed in doing this. I ask a lot of leaders of organizations what it’s all about. … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

In new businesses, the start-up group—which may be 10, 20, 50 people—has a psychological stake and often a financial stake in the business. These people use what I describe as the twin hierarchy approach. That is, there is the hierarchy of status—though not more than three or four levels. You find this in professional organizations, with senior partners, ordinary partners, and associates who would like … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

The reason that the stock market is so important is not because it raises money; it’s because it is putting a price on your property. Somebody else can buy you. When your stock price goes down, you’re worried, not because you can’t raise more money—you weren’t doing that anyway. But suddenly, it’s as if your house is valued at half the price of the house … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

I often say that life is like an apple—it falls into your hands. But it won’t fall into your hands unless you stand under the tree. You have to find the orchard, find the tree, and then something may happen.

Charles Handy, Marshall Goldsmith

As Charles Handy has pointed out, the “paradox of success” occurs because we need to change before we have to change. However, “when things are going well we feel no reason to change.”

Charles Handy

Subsidiarity… means that power belongs to the lowest possible point in the organization. …Subsidiarity, therefore, is the reverse of empowerment. It is not the center giving away or delegating power. Instead, power is assumed to lie at the lowest point in the organization and it can be taken away only by agreement.

Charles Handy

Today the management, monitoring, and governance of a business are increasingly seen as separate functions to be done by separate bodies, even if some of the membership of those bodies overlaps. This is the corporate equivalent of the separation of powers. Management is the executive function, responsible for delivering the goods. Monitoring is the judicial function, responsible for seeing that the goods are delivered according … [ Read more ]

Myself and Other More Important Matters

Management guru Handy quotes Voltaire, How infinitesimal is the importance of anything I do, but how infinitely important it is that I do it. That combination of modesty and determination underlies this autobiography from title to final page. Born in 1932, raised in Ireland and educated at Oxford, Handy disappointed his family by entering trade for Shell Oil in Asia. Returning to London, he embarked … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

There is nothing wrong with accountancy training — for accountants. But accountants are taught to give priority to the visible financial costs and assets, not to the less quantifiable human assets, which they regard as costs. They focus on the past rather than the future, because that alone can be accurately measured and audited. Their training regards risk, uncertainty, and the unknown as undesirable.

You Can’t Learn Management in a Classroom

A leading management thinker argues that MBAs need more real business world experience in their education.

Charles Handy

The letters MBA should, if the schools were honest, stand for Master of Business Analysis, because the tools and disciplines of analysis are what the students learn, not management, or administration as it used to be called. Analysis is a necessary part of good management and leadership but it is not the whole of it. Who to trust, how to inspire, how brave to be, … [ Read more ]

Understanding Organizations (Understanding Organization)

Charles Handy’s revolutionary 1989 bestseller The Age of Unreason catapulted him into the ranks of the top management consultants. Now, in this new edition of his acclaimed study Understanding Organizations, he solidifies his reputation as a seminal business thinker, offering a brilliantly insightful, wide-ranging look at business organizations.

Long a bestseller in the United Kingdom, this classic text offers an illuminating discussion of key concepts of … [ Read more ]

Charles Handy

A lot of people are sort of living a lie, they’re doing things they don’t really believe in because they feel they have to, and that’s very uncomfortable actually… you sort of hate yourself for doing it… and it’s very bad for morale, very bad for productivity. I think that one of the talents of leadership is to make that happen as little as possible.

Here … [ Read more ]

The Age of Unreason

Handy, a British specialist in organizational management, predicts that the 21st century will be the Age of Unreason. In an era when changes in business and society will be “discontinuous” or patternless, he suggests that our thinking must become discontinuous or “unreasonable” in order to use such changes to our advantage. While his thesis is generally in line with strategists like Tom Peters ( In … [ Read more ]

The Search for Meaning: A Conversation with Charles Handy

Social philosopher, management scholar, best-selling author, and radio commentator Charles Handy is an influential voice worldwide. One of the first to predict the massive downsizing of organizations and the emergence of self-employed professionals, Handy has a gift for looking 20 years ahead at ways society and its institutions are changing. The Irish-born, London-based author spoke recently with Leader to Leader during a visit to the … [ Read more ]