Top Down: Why Hierarchies Are Here to Stay and How to Manage Them More Effectively

Overview

Authoritarian Hierarchies Are Inevitable—So Let's Learn to Live with Them

Pundits have been forecasting the demise of the hierarchical corporation for decades. We denigrate those authoritarian structures as controlling, territorial, bureaucratic, and slow-and we celebrate "alternatives" that are flatter, more democratic, and networked.

But renowned organizational behavior expert Harold J. Leavitt argues that such alternative structures have not...

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Overview

Authoritarian Hierarchies Are Inevitable—So Let's Learn to Live with Them

Pundits have been forecasting the demise of the hierarchical corporation for decades. We denigrate those authoritarian structures as controlling, territorial, bureaucratic, and slow-and we celebrate "alternatives" that are flatter, more democratic, and networked.

But renowned organizational behavior expert Harold J. Leavitt argues that such alternative structures have not proven viable-or even desirable-and that despite its human failings, hierarchy remains the foundational shape of every large human organization. Why? Because it works. Top Down neither defends nor attacks the much-maligned hierarchy. Rather, this counterintuitive book convincingly shows that even the "flattest" of today's organizations are really just hierarchies in disguise-and, to improve the ways hierarchies function, we must first acknowledge their inevitability.

Exploring both the benefits and shortcomings of top-down structures, Leavitt shows how leaders can reshape hierarchies to incorporate the human values and motivations that enable employees to thrive. He then offers middle managers suggestions about how best to negotiate the way through those authoritarian mazes, while maintaining their personal integrity and even finding satisfaction in their work.

Top Down is a refreshing "get real" examination of the true state of today's workplace-and an important step toward creating organizations that are efficient and productive, but also egalitarian and humane.

Harold J. Leavitt is Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior Emeritus, the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591394983
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 11/8/2004
  • Pages: 189
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Why we don't like hierarchies 15
2 Why hierarchies persist 29
3 Humanizing hierarchies versus systemizing them 53
4 Three changes that shook the hierarchy 69
5 How big hierarchies cope with change 83
6 The manager's authority 101
7 Leadership, authority, and the hierarchy 125
8 Three lessons for manager/leaders 143
9 Hierarchies, managers, and morality 161
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2005

    Highly Recommended!

    This book could be subtitled 'A Survival Manual for Those Stuck in the Middle.' In the modern hierarchical (read 'authoritarian') organization, the beleaguered middle manager is indeed stuck in the middle. Author Harold J. Leavitt is a self-professed 'humanizer' who acknowledges the dehumanizing, authoritarian tendencies of the modern hierarchical organization. However, he goes beyond automatic humanistic inclinations to ask an important question: 'What¿s the alternative?' Hierarchies have structured human activity for centuries. They¿ve learned to cloak themselves in commoners¿ clothes in order to do business in egalitarian cultures, but don¿t let that fool you. Large organizations are still ruled by hierarchies, and woe unto the middle manager who forgets it. Leavitt¿s book evinces empathy for the plight of the unsung middle manager who has to meet the company¿s objectives while helping it appear to be something it¿s not: caring and humanistic. We highly recommend this book to all managers caught in the middle - which is to say, all managers.

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