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The Management Theory of Mary Parker Follett

By Sammi Caramela
Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 21, 2018
Credit: "Mary Parker Follett" / VectorStudy.com/Pataki Marta (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Though she never managed a for-profit enterprise, Follett offered valuable insight on organizational management.

Mary Parker Follett, or the "Mother of Modern Management," believed that management was "the art of getting things done through people." Though she never managed a for-profit enterprise, she offered valuable insight on the importance of "powering with" rather than "powering over," and integrating with employees to solve conflicts. 

"Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led," Follett once said. "The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders."

Follett practiced these principles of coordination that helped develop her theory of management:

  • Direct contact. Direct contact between employees and managers helps organizations avoid conflict and misunderstandings. Holding regular meetings or discussing assignments in person is a simple way to practice this principle.
  • Early stages. Coordination should be learned and mastered straight away. No employee should feel less important than the next; each has a significant role that compliments the roles of others.
  • Reciprocal relationship. Every worker, regardless of their level in hierarchy, is responsible for pulling their weight and integrating with the rest of the organization. No one person should be trying less or more than another – it's a team effort.
  • Continuous process. Coordination must be maintained. Don't just learn it and forget about it; channel it in everything you do.

Known well for her mediating tendencies and managing tactics, Follett created a management theory that is still in favor today. Its main principals include:

Integration

Follett thought that workers of all levels should integrate to reach the organization's goals. If conflict arises, there should be a conscious effort to pull instead of push, and to work together as a team. Because each member is doing their part, overall, they'll be more likely to be content with result.

Power with

Rather than establishing a strict hierarchy and delegating power to certain individuals over others, Follett believed that workers should practice co-active power. Powering with their team is better than powering over them; this way, each member feels just as valued as the next.

This is not to say that hierarchy should be eliminated entirely, however. Structure is still crucial, but employees should not feel like they are less valuable than their managers.

Group power

Group power should be valued over personal power. Organizations do not exist for one person's benefit, but rather the entire company of workers. If this selfless mindset prevails, then all workers will feel like they're on the same team, rather than in competition with each other.

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