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Leadership is loco

We have argued extensively that the modern leadership movement-marketed (MLM) concept of individual leadership in organizations is not merely misplaced, but that it in fact is:

  • at best irrelevant
  • more typically disruptively distracting
  • all too frequently an actively destructive force.

Honestly, then, why does this manifestly nonsensical notion continue to thrive so? The fact that it does would suggest that we have all the arguments we’ve developed against it wrong, that we have failed to see what’s really there and how its proponents effectively propound it.

The problem with that possible objection to our position in these pages, though, is that we haven’t, in truth, been able to come face to face with “what’s really there.” Rather, our efforts to do so have revealed that there is nothing really there at all. There is no universally adhered-to MLM argument to refute, no consensus about what individual leadership is, how to identify or develop its practitioners, how to predict its presence or effects.

The irony is at once frustrating and laughable. For several decades now, a topic that has no verifiable basis in fact even for its actual existence has absorbed more assets in publishing, teaching, “research,” and study than almost any other single aspect of organizational management, many of which have what one would think was the advantage of having something that’s “really there.”

Where does all the gas come from which keeps these heaving, blundering leadership balloons afloat? Is it merely the colorful spectacle they present in the otherwise bland sky that attracts us to them? Is it the prospect of the view, beguiling but distant and useless, we might obtain should we ever get a seat in one of those ostentatiously exclusive baskets suspended beneath such self-aggrandizing bombast?

Or is there, perhaps, something even more unpleasant at work, here, something with an influence more malignant than the vacuously breathtaking prospect would suggest? Let’s look at that next week.


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