How do you lead and manage an organization when it has a billion people or more? Classical leadership theory addresses organizations of hundreds and thousands, but not millions or billions. Some organizations, such as government bureaucracies and religions, have reached that size. So we have to think about a new paradigm
When you lead an organization with millions or even billions of people, the normal rules don’t apply. The leader can’t talk to people personally. It might even be difficult on video. She can’t touch them, or have them feel their presence physically. So a lot of the normal influencing tactics used by leaders don’t apply.
But a leader can use and transmit purpose. That’s how the great leaders of history have done the job. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill did it. Unfortunately so did some bad guys like Hitler and Mussolini. But they all understood that in order to move and lead people when you couldn’t touch them personally was to transmit that particular purpose. That’s what made Nelson Mandela so great.
When you lead millions of people, or for that matter any number of people that you don’t normally see or speak to, how you transmit that purpose is the key issue. You can’t just command. Even though famous despots such as Mao Tse Tung and Stalin used command as a tool, they still couldn’t have been effective leaders had not most people have believed in their purpose at some level.
You can be extraordinarily empathetic but that still won’t necessarily achieve the goal. The leader might understand the motives of their followers intimately, but that’s not enough to get them to follow you unswervingly, especially when you can’t even have any personal contact with them.
When you are faced with this issue, you have to literally wrap the brains and the purposes of leaders and followers together so that they act as one. That means that the followers are so wrapped in the purpose that they can intuit decisions by the leader before he makes them. The purposes of leader and led are not just understood and aligned, they are the same thing. In this situation of leadership, we can say that the purposes of leader and followers are completely entangled, and essentially the same thing. It’s as if we had one brain and one single purpose for the organization.
So let’s just for a moment let our minds wander. Ever heard of quantum theory? That’s how things work at the tiniest scales of measurement. One of the things we know is that at these scales, particles such as photons can get entangled. If you do something to one of them, it is mirrored in the other instantaneously, even if it is at the other end of the universe. It’s called “action at a distance”. It’s weird, but it happens, and we can even use this phenomenon to do useful things, like build a quantum computer.
Does that sound anything like what we have just been discussing? Namely entanglement of purpose between leader and follower? Is there some relationship here between quantum theory and leadership? Maybe that’s weird too but let’s explore, just for the mental exercise.
We now know from recent scientific work that quantum effects impact biological systems. It seems that birds might use some quantum effects in navigation and sight might also rely on them too. It’s starting to look like many if not all biological systems might leverage quantum phenomena. Why not, since they are there? It might be stranger if biological systems didn’t use them.
Is the parallel between entanglement of purpose in organizations and entanglement of particles just that, a parallel, no more? Or at some level, does entanglement have a physical and biological basis in leadership that leads to some sort of neural entanglement between people? Is that why people can have the same idea, even when they are widely separated, e.g. the simultaneous invention of calculus by Leibnitz and Newton?
If so, it might be that we are looking at another, unsuspected behavioral mechanism in leadership, namely action at a distance. From the outside we see this as shared purpose. From the inside it might be that certain outstanding leaders have learned somehow to leverage this mechanism. Maybe leaders such as Jesus Christ, Winston Churchill and even, latterly, Pope Francis and Nelson Mandela have found out how to leverage this phenomenon, even though they are not aware of it at a conscious level?
Is it possible that recent advances in behavioral economics and finance, which focus on unconscious cognitive biases, are seeing some reflections of the same mechanism? That economic behavior also has a basis in mechanisms of neural entanglement? If so, that could explain bubbles and other economic phenomena which, on the face of it, seem utterly irrational.
Of course, this is all speculative. However it isn’t as speculative as it was a few years ago before new research emerged to show that biological systems exploit quantum phenomena. It might be that the next big things are quantum economics and quantum social science.
Weirder things have happened. Like quantum theory itself.