I’ve worked in quite a few companies, and I’ve often been frustrated by their attitude to hierarchy. Business culture is very male, so it always seems to become a very status-based culture. The guy at the top is treated like royalty, the people at the bottom are treated as replaceable units. Only one place I worked at did “360 degree appraisal” which means (amongst other things) your reports are asked for feedback on how you are performing as their manager.
In a tree the roots support the branches, and nutrients and water flow up from the roots to the leaves, which are the parts that do the productive work.
I try to see management as a service provided by those nearer the bottom of the tree, to allow those higher up to do their job. So I expect a comfortable working environment and salary (water), but I also expect a steady flow of decisions & strategy (nutrients), feedback and support (branches). And if I don’t get those things, I expect to be able to give criticism and feedback, rather than hearing “you’re just a leaf, get on with it”.
It’s quite a nice metaphor. In practice it requires a good dose of humility, and steady attention to making sure the status hierarchy isn’t creeping back in.
At Chainfrog we draw our organisation chart with the Chiefs at the bottom, so it looks like a real tree and gives us a little reminder of the culture we want.