Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum cites Curtis Carlson, CEO of SRI International, which is a company that serves as an innovation factory for governments and companies, in their book That Used to be US from 2011. Carlson’s Law reads: Innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb. Innovation that happens from the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart. The role of the CEO is now to help create the environment where those decisions can happen where they should happen, to support them and reward them and inspire them.
This law helped me understand what Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a recent speech where he discussed management in the Moderate party of Sweden. Reinfeldt said that people are surprised that he just sits and listens and does not say anything. He had sent off 100 party members to a course to increase their listening ability. I must admit that I thought: Hey, Mr Prime Minister, an occasional good idea to lead by would perhaps be good but maybe I have learned something new. Reinfeldt really played down leadership and perhaps thinks in terms of the stewardship mentioned above by Carlson.
Interestingly, this is a differential to political leadership as it compares China and the West. Reinfeldt riled against the “strong man”, or “starke man”, concept. They guy that always takes charge and give orders profusely. It seems like the role of the party leader or CEO has changed the most. Taking charge has moved to the grass root level and that is of course bound to create a certain measure of chaos.
What I still don’t understand with Reinfeldt management theory is, however, how the leader of a country can get by without a vision for the future. Reinfeldt said that he did not like visions and that they usually tended to cost at least 100m SEK. My idea of a vision is rather something that makes a 100m SEK profit for the country. The citizens of a country need an overarching goal to follow. Such a goal could very well be a foreign political one where the government makes up their mind on Sweden’s position in Europe and the world.