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From Futureorientation 4/2007


On May 12, 2017: the anti-leadership law today puts an end to companies' possibilities to violate the individual's right of self-determination. "Now all employees can express themselves feely without being threatened on their basis for existence," said the Minister of Commerce at the press conference. Even though Denmark is a pioneer in the area, the anti-leadership law has caused an outcry in Danish business.

By Gitte Larsen and Thomas Geuken

The American professor and management theorist David Barry sent shock waves through the Danish business community when he today, together with the Minister of Commerce, revealed the content of the new anti-leadership law that takes effect January 1, 2018.

The first reactions came promptly from the global corporation Maersk, which has once again threatened to leave the country if the law is not changed, along with the executive orders regulating the new law. Maersk's spokesman stated that it cannot be true that it is now forbidden to use the terms optimization, quality assurance and bottom line in Danish workplaces. These words represent a healthy corporate ideology that has existed more than 300 years. To legislate against leadership is decidedly ridiculous, according to Maersk's spokesman.

It is now illegal to use these 13 terms in Danish businesses: leadership, organization, optimization, resource, gross profit, strategy, values, quality assurance, corporate branding, bottom line, skills development, coaching and change-ready.

Mental law and order

The Minister of Commerce based the new initiative on the fact that leadership violates the individual's fundamental right to be what he or she wants to be, without the involvement of commercial interests. The freedom to express oneself, and be known as who one is, is completely decisive for the individual person to find one's own way to oneself and thereby contribute to developing the world. The laws and regulations against leadership in workplaces must also be seen against the bigger picture. They are in line with the new human rights that a civilized country such as Denmark must follow. Therefore, the minister continued to stand behind the individual's inviolable right to be himself/herself.

In fact, the new human rights were created against the background of bad experiences of companies' rape-like attempts to create monolithic unit cultures. The examples show how companies put enormous pressure on the individual employee to align himself with the collective market identity.

The human is no longer a skill-based resource companies can use, consume and abuse in the name of efficiency and productively. If Danish business still believes it can hold on the protestant work ethic, with virtues such as discipline, strength, competition, aggression, warlike ambition, power and financial rationalism, it is much mistaken. This is 2017, more than 10 years since the pleasurable work-related terms marked everyone in the labor force except the older generation.

Even though many companies already today live up to the liberation policy, the anti-leadership law is an important step toward a freer future for all employees in the Danish labor market. In recent years, the pressure on politicians to legislate in this are has grown significantly because of the long line of cases in which an employee's basic civil rights have been grossly violated.

“With the law in place, we can finally say to each other that we are moving away from industrialism and into the future. We know today it was an epoch marked by economic growth, but also by human costs. Speculative powers are still out there waiting to pounce to score off of people's natural naivety and weakness. With the anti-leadership law, we have had to constantly weigh freedom of speech against mental law and order,” said the Minister of Commerce at the press conference.

Liberation practices

By making leadership a crime, Denmark becomes the first country in the world to prosecute violators, demanding fines, prison terms and victim compensation. At the press conference, the Minister of Education concluded that the traditional management philosophies were morally reprehensible and invited the social organizations (the term for future companies - ed.) to help establish concrete liberation practices in their place. The executive order is the result of a longer study of new and more experimental approaches to establishing more humane organizations. The executive order also represents a new movement away from the old, scientifically-based management paradigms towards a new, more art-based understanding of liberation.

The law on anti-leadership means that organizations no longer become lazy or rigid in their language and reality. The law, which prohibits leadership and certain industrial-society terms, is a creative crowbar that makes it necessary for the individual to create his own distinctive language and his own understanding of himself and his organization. The principles for anti-leadership in social organizations or other companies are these:

Thomas Geuken is a state-certified industrial psychologist and is an associate of Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, tg@cifs.d. Gitte Larsen is a futurist and is the editor of FO/futureorientation, gil@cifs.dk

Anti Leadership: a place to go for you and your company

In the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies' new book All Dressed Up - but nowhere to go, published by Gyldendal in August, you can read seven future stories that are ideas for specific places to go for you and your company. A place to go can be a physical place or a mentality, and are often both at the same time. That also means you can carry the place with you when you go. The seven places to go cover corporate practice within marketing, management, business legitimacy, identity, spoken communication and organization.

In addition to the anti-leadership law, which is a rebellion against unending management clichés that speak to the lowest common denominator, you can meet a couple of local heroes who put color and distinctiveness into daily life, a speaker's corner in a company, a riot marketing campaign in the form of a drop zone, a rock'n'roll company, a set of new human rights, and a microcosmos on its way out into the world to establish itself as a new society. We have used the names of existing companies in the examples, but the situations and stories are 100% fiction and all take place in 2017.

The stories about the future float, in other words, in a place between fantasy and reality, future and past, and good and bad.

The book's seven stories about the future are a buffet of inspiration for new ways of thinking and acting. The coupling between your reality and the individual stories are perhaps not easy, but that is on purpose. For you, the easiest thing in the world would be to continue your karaoke life by transferring on place to go to your company. The hard thing is to transform one or more of our ideas about places to go so that your company becomes a unique place.

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18. september 2007

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