Leaders everywhere are taking a bad rap these days. Hardly a day goes by without news of corporate ethical violations, financial fudging and CEO failures. Yet, compensation packages and bonuses continue unabated, even when disgraced leaders are sent packing.
Corporate leaders are being pushed out in record numbers. In 2002, over a hundred CEOs from the world’s 2,500 largest companies were replaced—almost four times the number in 1995.
What is happening to our efforts to develop good leaders? In spite of the billions spent annually to train high-potential candidates, why do those promoted to positions of power, with critical responsibilities, continue to fail?
“Being a leader has become a mantra. It is a presumed path to money and power; a medium for achievement, both individual and institutional; and a mechanism for creating change sometimes—although hardly always—for the common good.” ~ Barbara Kellerman, in her book – The End of Leadership
Harvard Business School Professor Barbara Kellerman criticizes the leadership-development industry in her book, The End of Leadership. She asserts:
· Leaders at every level, across all industries, are failing the people who depend on them.
· Leadership programs have done an inadequate job of producing effective and ethical leaders.
· We don’t really know how to grow good leaders, and we know even less about how to stop or slow the bad ones.
· Today’s business environment is rapidly changing in ways leaders are unable or unwilling to grasp.
· Followers are disappointed and disillusioned, even though they are more empowered, emboldened and entitled than ever before.
Until only recently, we presumed that leaders should dominate and followers must do as they are told. But after several revolutions, labor movements, human-rights legislation and the spread of democracy, the world has radically changed.
Power, authority and influence are in scarce supply for even the most charismatic CEOs, and continuing to devolve. Workers in the middle and at the bottom of the hierarchy have an expanded sense of entitlement, but they are demanding more and giving less. Technology has helped level the playing field.
Workers are often indifferent, disengaged or outright resistant. There are only two reasons they’ll follow a leader:
1. They have to.
2. They want to.
The end of the 20th century marked the demise of command-and-control leadership, although some bosses stubbornly insist on trying to make it work. In its place, leaders are advised to become more participatory—to lead by cooperation and collaboration.
Leadership success is judged on three criteria:
1. Is the leader ethical?
2. Is he/she effective?
3. Does the business make money and provide jobs?
In the workplace, however, followers judge their leaders and ask:
· Does my boss have my best interests in mind (and does he/she even know what they are)?
· Is my boss looking out for the company’s best interests?
· Why should I believe, follow and trust this person?
· Like most other animals, humans tend to look to strong males to provide what’s most important: safety and security. We are just like baboons, deferring to males whose strength and capacity to lead have been tested.
There is no leadership without followership. Good leadership requires good followers, who may be passive or active (depending on context). But followers have generally been slow to embrace empowerment and participate in the leader/follower tango.
Tomorrow, in Part 2; I’ll examine the leadership reputation in corporate America and public perceptions.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.