For centuries empires grew by amassing power into the center. “All roads lead to Rome,” as the ancient saying goes. Dogma, coercion, force, and ritual overtly and covertly combined to keep large groups in rhythmic lockstep. But time is a stubborn thing. Strategies that sustained empires in one era can become their downfall in the next.
In the age of early man, localization ruled. Small bands united together for hunting, protection, and communal bonds. It was agriculture on a mass scale that allowed this to change. Suddenly large populations could assemble and become sedentary. No longer was everyone needed to secure food. From this new reality bureaucratic leadership emerged.
But in the twenty-first century, decision-making is aspiring to localize once again, and this dynamic favors a return to shared leadership. Autonomy of voice, agility of movement, and the sacredness of self are all ascending values.
Vibrant institutions of the future will increasingly flip the script on the centralized command systems of the past, and this will inspire entrepreneurial capabilities. Headquarters will learn to make themselves smaller and share the stage. Historically individuals have existed to serve the empire. Looking ahead, institutions will exist to serve their members.
As Rudyard Kipling wrote, “The strength of the pack is the wolf.”