Social Stratification and Hierarchy: What Business Leaders Ought to Know

Rise above Social Stratification

All societies are stratified and have elements of hierarchy amongst their members. If the notion of Varna or Caste is prevalent in the East, then the notion of class and race is prevalent in the west. In recent decades, with the advent of modernity and postmodernism, there has been a tendency among social scientists to dismiss the concept of stratification and insist that societies become egalitarian. Without getting into the merits and demerits of particular types of social stratification, it is important to remember that in all societies, the coalescing of people around specific identities forms the glue that binds them together and in turn gives coherence and sense of purpose to society. Of course, this is not to say that without racial or ethnic identities, societies would flounder. Indeed, with modern notions, the concept of these groupings has become antiquated. The point that is being made here is that in the absence of formalized structures and institutions that promote equality, the ethnic and the racial groupings provide their members with a sense of security and a fallback option in hard times. Indeed, the success of the East in recent times has been attributed to the prevalence of family values, group identity, and the networks of racial and ethnic groups that provide the much-needed support for starting new ventures or growth of existing ones. On the other hand, the widening income inequality in the West, which is another form of stratification, has been blamed for the deterioration and degeneration in those countries.

Hierarchy and its uses and disadvantages

Turning to the concept of hierarchy, it is indeed the case that any organization or grouping of people has to be hierarchical if decision-making and responsibility as well as accountability of these groupings is to actualize. In other words, though most of us hate the fact that hierarchy among peoples make some superior and others inferior, for purposes of cohesion and coherence as well as discipline and order, some semblance of control should be present which is provided by hierarchy. As mentioned earlier, this is not a justification for the prevalence of group identities based on narrow conceptions of human nature. Rather, the examination of what are trends in societies is the focus of this article and as empirical research shows, these groupings are very much present both in the West (based on income and class along with race) as well as in the East (based on ethnic, religious, and other social groupings). Hence, any policymaker or business leader has to necessarily take into account these realities and without paying too much importance to the divisions, has to work with them and within them as well as rise above them if he or she has to make an impact on the organizations that they head.

Be Global in Attitude yet Local in Execution

The concepts of stratification and hierarchy are closely intertwined, as one cannot exist without the other. Though this is reprehensible fact that some groups are deemed superior to others, the fact that business leaders ought to understand the different social structures and base their strategies on shrewd observation cannot be denied. As has been emphasized throughout this article, the best approach would be one where hierarchy is determined based on merit and stratification is absent except where the need for decision-making and execution of strategy is concerned. in other words, the truly great business leaders are aware of the societal differences but rise above them and ensure that their strategies are realistic without getting caught in the inter group and intra group warfare and strife.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, it is high time we acknowledge the fact that the 21st century belongs to global leaders who realize the importance of cosmopolitan leadership rather than antiquated divisions. On the other hand, they need to be cognizant of the local realities which would make them avoid the mistake of forcing global notions on the society without a clear understanding of the on the ground situation.


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