For as long as there’s been recorded history, kings and queens have ruled and been celebrated by their subjects. Not everywhere, not all the time, but widely.
Not simply the royalty of nations, but of organizations as well.
It’s worth noting that in addition to monarchs, there are monarchists, citizens and employees and followers who prefer the certainty that comes from someone else.
Royalty offers something to some of those who are ruled. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t exist.
As Sahlins and Graeber outline in their extraordinary (and dense) book on Kings, there’s often a pattern in the nature of monarchs. Royalty doesn’t have to play by the same cultural rules, and often ‘comes from away.’ Having someone from a different place and background allows the population to let themselves off the hook when it comes to creating the future.
If your participation in leadership is not required, then you’re free to simply be a spectator.
When we industrialized the world over the last century, we defaulted to this structure. Many Western industrial organizations began as founder-celebrated and founder-driven. CEOs could, apparently, do no wrong. Until the world their business operated in changed.
In large corporations, the autocratic, well-paid chieftain has the trappings of a monarch. A private air force, minions and the automatic benefit of the doubt. Working in this setting requires obedience and effort from employees more than agency or independence.
A well-functioning constitutional monarchy is surprisingly effective. That’s not the problem. The problem is what happens when it stops to function well. The problem can happen when royalty becomes selfish, shortsighted or impatient. Or the problem could be a pattern of employees or members or citizens failing to participate. Resilience disappears and the system becomes brittle.
When the world changes, and it does, faster than ever, it’s community and connection that moves us forward.
Modern organizations are discovering that all of us know more than any of us, and that engaged individuals ready to not only speak up but to eagerly take responsibility for the work they do is an effective, resilient and equitable way to show up in the world.