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Managing without Power by Belbin – Review


Managing without Power: gender relationships in the story of human evolution by R Meredith Belbin

Publisher: Butterworth Heinemann
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 075065192X
Price: £16.99

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This new book by Belbin sets out to consider the way in which continuing evolution has produced distinct patterns of behaviour for men and women.

"The present era is one of confusion and uncertainty in terms of organisational roles" says Belbin. "The genetic archetypes that were products of this evolutionary story are still with us and are capable of bursting through cultural barriers. Only if we learn to recognise and manage them can we hope to come to terms with the world as it is."

The book begins by looking at Primaeval Society and the roles of men and women. Belbin argues that this society was a socially sophisticated and balanced one where women acted as contractors and men as suppliers.

Migration led to dominance of aggressive male warriors seeking territory. And natural selection within competing empires favoured the survival of able professional and compliant slaves. Today power has lost its biological utility and the technological evolution with its emphasis on communication skills has favoured the emancipation of women.

Belbin describes 4 genetically driven archetypes as Primaeval, Warrior, Professional and Slave, and their subsets.

He considers the development of society through the Ages of Migration, Power, Respect and Accommodation, and contrasts the virtues and skills of the present P-type managers who lead from the front with the A-type Managers who prefer to share responsibility.

I found this book fascinating, but slightly disappointing. The subject area, exploring gender relationships, has always interested me (earlier in my career I often felt myself to be the only A-type working with the P-types!) but I was impatient with the detail of early society and wanted to get to how it impacted on modes of management today – a chapter at the end. The book also contains interesting views of the impact and function of sex and religion in shaping the identified archetypes and society.

If you are a Belbin convert (like myself), this book is a must; if more sceptical then I’m not sure, borrow a copy first and judge for yourself.

Renee Raper
Director of Learning
Learning Channel


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