Just One Way Out Thought Here

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith

POSTED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2011

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If the (unbelievable, inspiring) uprisings in the Middle East prove that no authority of any kind can stand against pure democracy – the clearly expressed will of the people – what does that mean for all non-democratic governance institutions? Like corporations, for example? Where does the control really lie?

Stop laughing. (Sneering, however, is encouraged.) And certainly I’m not exactly in favour of running a company by plebiscite – yikes.

But just for argument’s sake, what would happen if all the employees at EllisDon collectively expressed their fierce determination that the CEO be fired? Or (more happily for the CEO) the other way around: What if a Board decides to fire its CEO, and the employees absolutely refuse to accept that decision? In such a situation, how much power does the Board or the shareholders really have? Especially in any industry where there is a shortage of capable people available?

OK, so we’re probably not looking at an upheaval in the way corporations are governed, but perhaps autocratic, control freak leaders had better be rethinking their style. And maybe the unions should ask just how needed they really are, when twitter activity can bring down governments.

Just possibly, what we are watching in the Middle East is not just historic in terms of world affairs and the international economy, but may be a precursor of a rebalancing of power throughout all of our institutions. I have absolutely no idea how it will all pan out, of course, but the times they are a-changing, top to bottom. (Better get yourself a twitter account.)

Thanks for reading.