January 27, 2023


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“Employees need a commander who stays the course”

In his book “Entrepreneurs, magicians and prophets: leading organizations in the digital age” (Hermann, November 2019), co-written with François Moreau, president of LHH-Altedia, Alain Bloch, professor of entrepreneurship at HEC, considers that he is more and more difficult for leaders to give meaning to their business.

Why want at all costs to give meaning to entrepreneurial action?

The action of building meaning within the company is at the heart of the activity of the entrepreneur. Sociologist Karl Weick recalls that it is essential to get customers and employees on board, and to coordinate their actions. All stakeholders therefore need to visualize and understand the raison d’être of their company in order to move forward. This meaning is not only to be understood as a direction, but also as an induced system of representations, which allows the entrepreneur to engage the employees’ support.

How to “construct” this meaning?

Much of it comes from the narrative activity of the business owner, from storytelling. But above all, it must be consistent with the achievements: there must not be a lag effect between speech and actions. Stakeholders could indeed see manipulation, which would have catastrophic consequences. It is also important to show a course around the idea of ​​sustainability. The entrepreneur must show that he wants to build something in continuity. It is a strong idea that brings together all the stakeholders of the organization: everyone has an interest in sustainability while profit divides. In this way, we give meaning to the organization and we make it clear that the raison d’être goes beyond the individual: the organization will survive him.

You say that it is also essential to combine the employee’s desire to belong to the company with his need for recognition …

Indeed, it is a theory developed by Emile-Michel Hernandez: the desire to belong to the company and the desire for recognition may appear antagonistic but it is up to the entrepreneur to succeed in satisfying both. To do this, the economist Albert Hirschman suggests speaking out as a means of fighting against the decline of the organization and the defection of employees. It is necessary that everyone can express themselves and that everyone feels that their word is taken into account.

Can the entrepreneur co-construct this meaning with all the collaborators?

We need to build the fate of the organization taking into account all stakeholders. It is important to listen to them, but I think it would be a mistake to fall into the fashion of consensus culture. Because the entrepreneur can take decisions contrary to general opinion. Employees must be able to express themselves, but they need a commander who “stays the course”.

How does the entrepreneur become a prophet and a magician?

In a world more uncertain every day, it becomes more and more difficult to give direction. These uncertainties which surround us, resulting from the digital revolution or the current health crisis, are such that building a business strategy is more a matter of prophecy than of reasoning. The entrepreneur then becomes a little prophet and magician. However, he does not have the right to successive prophecies under penalty of losing the confidence of his collaborators.