This is an old story here: there is no such thing as leadership in the absence of something to lead. So, why do we imagine that we have “leaders” whose only need is a leadership position?
The classic example of this is postgraduate business programs – especially the fabled MBA – which we suppose draw in to one end raw material which someone has determined somehow to be reasonably promising, and then push suitably sorted, folded, and packaged “leaders” out the other. All that is needed then is a delivery address where this individual leadership can unwrap itself.
This applies to groups, by the way, as well as individuals. Most social associations, for example, can hardly be said to demand leadership of the nature we discuss here. This requires the gathering together of a number of people specifically in order to collaboratively pursue a corporate aim.
It is that – a purpose that transcends the ability of a single person, but calls up a group to pursue it – which provokes the dynamics that lead to everything else: the evolving integration of group cohesion and self-organization, self-management, and self-leadership.
If a classically-defined “leader” steps into such a situation and commences to attract “followers” to realize his or her “vision,” then it shouldn’t be difficult to see that something important is being distorted. The only entity with the natural right or perspective to do that is the entrepreneur or the owner, in the various guises these manifest in the modern business world – not a newly minted MBA or even a seasoned CEO “leader.”
When the fiduciary integrity of the corporate chain of command is broken by such brazenly assertive individual leaders, moral hazard enters the resulting fissures and widens them further. This is almost certainly behind many of the problems that we are experiencing today.
In this regard, the model of individual leadership as it is viewed and promoted by the modern leadership movement generates powerfully corrosive effects in our system of corporate governance. As a result, we likely must frankly address both simultaneously.
Unsurprisingly, there is substantial resistance to this on both fronts.
Tomorrow, we will take a brief look at one of the phenomena that creates and perpetuates the notion of individual leadership. Later in the week we will move on to see why “followers” are really expressing leadership. We will then bring this series to a close by revisiting the role – the preeminent role – of management in all of this.
Today’s tips: Speaking of continuing neglect of concerns about corporate governance, please see this distressing summary, at Sox First, of the dismissive approach to it in the aftermath of our current financial industry meltdown.
Next, for more disturbing evidence of the degree of that negligence, please see this stunning report by Jonathan Farrington.
And speaking of questioning assumptions about entrenched approaches, please see this WSJ editor’s note about a piece – linked to in the note – challenging the usefulness of the dreaded performance review.
Finally, speaking of business education, why not get it for free? I was recently reminded of this selection of actual Yale University lectures in various fields of interest easily accessible online – it may be worth your while to visit the site and then pass the word along (why not start here, with this timely lecture on financial markets?).
If you look at the contents section on the sidebar of the main page of this site, you will see a listing of the article series that have been published here. You can click through to view summaries of the pieces, and then read the full series or selections that are of most interest to you. Enjoy!
And while you are, please also subscribe by email or RSS reader – thanks!
Technorati Tags: leadership, leader, business, MBA, individual leadership, cohesion, organization, management, follower, vision, perspective, entrepreneur, owner, CEO, integrity, chain of command, moral hazard, corporate governance, Sox First, Jonathan Farrington, WSJ, performance review