quote:The British writer and philologist Prof. J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973 is best known as the author of the classic Lord of the Rings, a work that has inspired millions of readers since its appearance in the mid-1950s. One who fell under the spell of the LOTR trilogy was 38-year-old Harri Hietikko of Vaasa.
On Christmas Eve 2005, Hietikko got the idea of writing his administrative science doctoral dissertation on the perspectives of power and leadership thrown up by characters and power structures in the Tolkien novels.
Last Friday, he presented his findings at the University of Tampere’s Department of Management Studies in a Finnish-language thesis under the title “Power, Leadership, Doom, and Hope in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or ‘Management by Sauron’”.
The core aim of Hietikko’s work was to determine whether - apart from its purely literary merits - Tolkien’s trilogy offers any concrete lessons for the leaders of modern organisations.
In exploring this, he probes eight characters in the novels representing different models of leadership, profiling them as active (Gandalf, Sauron, Saruman), passive-reactive (Galadriel, Théoden, Denethor), or heroic characters specialising in project work (Aragorn and the hobbit-hero Frodo Baggins).
As can be seen from some of the names above, the leadership styles and strengths of the “bad guys” in Tolkien’s massive opus are also examined and weighed.
It might be somewhat close to the bone and testing credibility if the management styles of real-world despots and dictators were discussed in this way, but as Hietikko says: “In fiction it is easier to rise above motives and find the good even in evil actions.”
By way of an example, he cites the treacherous and power-hungry necromancer Sauron, the title-character of the story, who is also a cultivated and a learned man.
Through his clever use of words, Sauron is capable of swaying his followers and he can effectively condense and distil the goals of his organisation.
“A rather apt stereotype for modern man surfaces in the shape of Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, who struggles under internal and external pressures and is reluctant to resond to changed circumstances.”
When not defending his doctoral thesis, Harri Hietikko is Administrative Manager at the City Theatre in Vaasa, and he claims interestingly that a working environment "in which dragons and knights are commonly encountered on the corridors" is ideal for applying Tolkien's leadership models.
He has also published three detective novels and a number of theatre scripts.nThe works, with a supernatural and philosophical flavour to them, have earned a minor cult following.
Every man is at least a master of his own actions, so how does Tolkien's wisdom suit to the running of Life Inc.?
"An overweening belief in being able to know what the future will bring leads to a passive lack of alternatives in one's thinking, and thereby to doom and destruction. But in humility there is hope, which kicks one forwards to keep on trying", comes back the answer in an instant.
Naturally, having a ring of power might help.
From: Helsinki | Registered: Aug 2001
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Well, personally I don't think there are any Sauron's or Morgoth's about in the world. If only because your average tinpot dictator lacks the means or imagination for global domination at the moment. But there do seem to be an awful lot of Denethor's, Bill Ferny's and Ted Sandyman's. Possibly even a Feanor or two!