I feel compelled to state up front that this wasn’t the mind-blowing book I was writing about in yesterday’s post. One of the perks of working in publishing is the occasional offer of a free book. (It’s not as generous as you might think, so when one is offered I always say “thank you.”) The Surprising Science of Meetings, by Steven G. Regelberg, isn’t exactly “mind-blowing.” The realization that some people make a living studying meetings was certainly, well, surprising, but the corporate world is all about returns on investments and boring stuff like that. We all hear of companies that value innovative and exciting ideas, but most of us know the feeling of being desk drones parked behind a soulless monitor all day. At least I’m no longer confined to a cubicle.
The academic world I once knew was the stimulating environment of learning for its own sake. The academy has followed the business world to its own form of perdition and as Rogelberg points out, there are millions of meetings any given day. Many of them are poorly run. This book is for those who want meetings to flow more effectively, to better the bottom line. Still, I found the chapter on servant leadership particularly hopeful. I couldn’t help but wonder if Rogelberg was aware that servant leadership was something that developed in the church, out of the effort to imitate the way Jesus was said to have led his flock of disciples. The point was not to aggrandize himself (this is a chapter 45 and his ilk should read) but to help others to be their best. This is the kind of leadership—rare, to be sure—that the church has always, at least vocally, promoted.
It didn’t take long for ecclesiastical organizations to start running like businesses, however. The bishop became a boss rather than someone who reluctantly had the crozier forced into his (or her) hand. I’ve always believed you should have to take a pay cut to become a bishop. That would immediately weed out most of the climbers. In fact, if servant leadership is really the ideal, and the good of the company is really the goal, pay cuts should be expected as you climb the corporate ladder. Can you imagine a business world where workers were well compensated, and those who really had vision sought promotion because their motivation wasn’t their own bottom line? It’s an intriguing idea, to be sure. I’d like ponder it more, but I’ve got a meeting to get to.