Home Concepts Organizational Theory The Don Quixote Project: New Perspectives on Functional and Dysfunctional Organizations and Their Leaders

The Don Quixote Project: New Perspectives on Functional and Dysfunctional Organizations and Their Leaders

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Functional organizations are not places of the body and mind. They are places of spirit and soul. There is no such thing as a “secular” organization—for all contemporary models of organizational life are deeply embedded to the framework of ancient religious practices and have been nurtured in the soil of communal life and traditional societies. Functional and effective leadership requires a movement to soulfulness and spirit—terms and dynamics that are not easily understood or embraced in our 21st Century postmodern society.

We must further look to a shift from the modern organizational emphasis on goal-setting and motivation (a distorted emphasis on the domain of spirit) to a postmodern emphasis on soulful work. This transition in a postmodern setting is difficult. We see a graphic and poetic illustration of this difficult transformation in the tale of Don Quixote. Quixote makes something special of the mundane and in this way engages in constructive (at least over the short term) narcissism. As an aging man he was not satisfied with the everyday. Hence he looked upward (for spiritual guidance) and backward in time (for historical guidance). He looked back to the age of chivalry and valor—a romantic era that was ending at the time Cervantes wrote his epic tale. Quixote elevates the inn’s sluttish serving girl, Aldonza, to a much higher status. She is transformed into the lady of the manor. He also restores her long-lost virginity. Quixote christens her, “Dulcinea.” Windmills become foreboding ogres. The barber’s bowl is transformed into a knight’s helmet. Don Quixote is typical of a narcissistic leader dominated by spiritual forces. He is moved to the spirit (“in-spiration”).

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