Radical Leadership

1.0 Introduction

                The term radical seemed to be much maligned term in view of a preconceived idea that associates it with revolutionary concept. But given the context by which this term was applied to the Chief Executive Officer of Semco Group Mr. Recardo Semler of Sao Paulo, Brazil, there really seemed to have something in this word that is not ordinary. Given the concept behind the term ‘radical leadership and management’ this paper intends to provide understanding about what really is this radical leadership especially in the context of Semco group management led by Semler. At the onset, Brazilian political leadership and economy had experienced extreme situation that caused “countless Brazilian banks and companies to fail in their operations. According to the article titled “Management Concepts: Managing in a Global Environment” it is this economic and political condition of Brazil that creates problem for many companies and banks. Yet, despite of this problem, Semco has managed to withstand this economic challenge. Semler attributes this success with his management style.

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The article stated, “He felt it was the only way to build an organization that was resilient enough to flourish in chaotic and turbulent times” (Management Concept). This paper therefore will provide an understanding of the term radical leadership and how it will address potential problems as a result of unfavorable economic condition. The paper will also attempt to argue that this management style is an effective management style that can meet future challenges resulting from hard economic condition in the future That is, this type of management will continue to work well for the company even in times of economic peace though it appears that this type of leadership is designed to meet the harsh economic challenge brought by unstable economic and political leadership.

0.2  Semler’s unconventional management style is indeed and effective management approach

According to many who have observed Semler’s leadership style, Semler breaks all the traditional rules of leading and managing with his remarkable management strategy which he calls “participative management.” At first glance, there seemed to be no problem. But closer analysis of the article reveals that there are some problems affecting companies and banks in Brazil.  The most obvious one is the unstable economic and political condition which caused tremendous problems among many companies and banks. Next is the design by which this management style was intended. According to the article, Semler did not intended to pursue such radical leadership style in search for a more productive strategy,  rather he has intended it towards building an organization that would be resilient enough against rough economic condition. While this seemed not really a problem at the moment, yet it will be a potential problem in the future particularly when both the political and economic situation improved.

0.2  Semler’s unconventional management style is indeed and effective management approach

Radical leadership in the context of Semler’s management style is a management of loose supervision that operates based on trust and confidence on the employees’ maturity and sincerity in their work. It is a indeed a very unconventional style as it directly violates the current management and leaderships norms such as hierarchical type of organization, the organization chart, and the formal office protocol of including dress codes. Furthermore, the article stated that the employees at Semco group decide their work hours and their pay levels, and they can even decide who their boss will be and even review their boss performance (management Concept). That is, a leadership that revolutionize a new idea for the sake of addressing the current problems confronting the company. Given this concept, it is hereby affirm Semler’s argument that radical leadership is an effective management style’ In the article entitled “Leadership Styles for the Five Stage of radical Change” Reardon,  Rowe (1998) cited that the key component of successful leadership today and in the coming years is a leadership that is proactive as well as ‘effective responsiveness to change (p. 129). This statement affirms Semler’s claim that his radical management style work’s well especially in the context of the current economic problem. Reardon, Reardon, and Rowe points out that this kind of leadership and management is a leadership that is flexible “and capable of adapting to new conditions, open to fresh ideas or unconventional options, and willing to take greater risks” (Reardon, Reardon and Rowe, p. 129).

0.3 advantage of radical leadership in times of economic difficulties

Apparently, Semler’s management styles encompassed Reardon, Reardon and Rowe’s definition of radical leadership. From the way it looks, it appears that Semler’s management style was an innovative solution to the problems that his company was confronting rather than a management style per see. According to the article mentioned earlier, the roller coaster nature of Brazil’s politics and economy had caused so much economic trouble not only among companies in Brazil but among the countless banks that suffered failures. The article pointed out that the country’s political leadership and economy “have gone one extreme to another resulting to failures of countless Brazilian banks and companies’ (Management Concept). Yet as the article implies, Semco manage to stay afloat amidst the troubled waters of Brazil. The article noted that the underlying belief in participative management approach is that it “thrive best by entrusting employees to apply their creativity and ingenuity in service of the whole enterprise, and to make important decisions close to the flow of work, conceivably including the selection and election of their bosses” (Management Concepts). With this management concept, Semler’s emphasized that his management style works well. Indeed, what requires the innovation of radical leadership and management is the drive of many firms to make “great strides in the science of project management” amidst relentless global competition.  Leifer (2000) cited that these companies “have developed management systems and tools that enable project teams to move big, complex undertakings along quickly and efficiently” (p. 55). As a result, Leifer noted that leading firms “have become much more adept at continual improvement and incremental innovation related to their existing products and processes” (p. 55). These efforts seemed to confirm too that that most companies are increasingly aware of the need to apply innovative management approach not only to gain competitive advantage in view of the global competition but also to deal with problems resulting from unstable economic and political conditions not only in Brazil but in different countries around the globe. Thus, it further confirms that the radical leadership and management exemplified by Semler at Semco group is indeed an effective management solution towards the economic and political crises affecting the business climate.

0.4  The potential solution to the problems presented above

Based on the above arguments presented, the solution to the problems mentioned earlier is this management style it self. The problem mentioned above includes the unstable political leadership and economic condition that was greatly affecting many companies and banks. This management style according to Semco boss which is Semler himself was conceptualize and was intended for difficult economic situation. In other words, it was designed to make an organization more flexible “enough to flourish in chaotic and turbulent times” (management Concept).  While the article seemed to only the problem stated in this section, yet it also present a future problem as mentioned earlier. This problem is concern about the design of this management style which is intended not only to withstand the challenges of turbulent and chaotic economy, but also to flourish during this kind of economic situation. The problem here actually is that how the company would adjust when the situation is back to normal. One obvious answer is that Semco group should adopt this style not only as a solution to the impact of turbulent political leadership and the economy but also as a way of becoming flexible. By gearing towards this goal, the company should do its part especially in their efforts to continue to be more innovative and to persistent in their efforts to thrive and prospers.

0.5 Conclusions and recommendations

            Overall, Semler’s excellent innovations were not only written on paper but also on actual practice of the principles of radical leadership.  Radical leadership as pointed out earlier is a highly effective approach in managing business especially when facing turbulent and chaotic economic and political situation which adversely affect the business environment. It is high recommended therefore that managers and leaders of not only business but also of government and non-government organization to learn about its approaches in order to cope with troublesome situations.  In effect, traditional leadership is no longer appropriate given the challenging conditions of the modern society as well as the increasing competition among multinational firms to gain competitive edge.  Thus, radical leadership provides practical approaches which at first difficult to adopt; however, due to alignment and organizational development that will be undertaken in order to adopt its principles, the company will be able to uphold what it really takes.  It is highly advantageous since it allows flexibility in the exercise of management; instead, the executives are free to exercise what they think is required to achieve organizational goals. It is another venture in management; it deserves to be used for this changing world.


Leifer, R. (2000) Radical Innovation: How Mature Companies Outsmart Upstart USA: Harvard Business Press

Management Concepts: Managing in a Global Environment. USA: Pearson Custome Publishing.

Reardon, Reardon & Rowe (1998) Leadersip Styles for the Five Stages of Radical Change http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/dau/reardon.pdf


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Radical Leadership. (2016, Nov 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/radical-leadership/