Leadership and Cheap Leaders

An old proverb says that “literature proliferates in the empty spaces of societies”. In other words, we discuss and re-discuss our weak points – the things we consider are missing in our environment and what we should be aiming for. If we look at it in those terms, the absolute LDH (Leadership Development Hysteria) that has hit most Consulting Firms (we’re one of them), the Management press in general and many large multinational organizations, probably says something about our times and maybe about our society as a whole.
Or to put in differently, you’ll never manage to get a date with anyone at the “Happy Hours” tonight by proudly explaining to your audience – pale ale in hand – that the future you envision for yourself is to become an “average follower”. You will quickly end up alone on the sidewalk. You have to want to be a leader!
But why??
It seems to me that there are at least three reasons for this.

The mishaps of diversity
The leadership body of large organizations is a fundamentally diverse crowd. And we all know that diversity hinders communications and thus operational effectiveness and can lead to potentially costly misunderstandings. This is where well designed Leadership Profiles can play an important role in getting people on the same page and shaping a corporate culture that is inclusive as well as representative of the uniqueness of the company. It won’t happen overnight but, yes, it is really effective. People who converge around corporate values and management behaviors increase consistency and effectiveness in a global world.

The authority crisis
Over the past twenty years, be it in school, families, universities and companies, we no longer relate to authority and hierarchy in the same way. Traditional sources of legitimacy are put into question one after the other and the young generation, Generation Y, is pushing these questions quite far. Perhaps our preoccupation with developing more and more leaders and stronger and stronger leadership is also a way to cope with this profound cultural change.

A profound change in governance
Finally, in large corporation or at political level, like the EU or G20, it is clear that we are moving away from pretty traditional centralized and dominating forms of leadership towards a more cooperative vision of how power should be exercised. Today’s leaders face the challenge of operating in a complex field of contradictory and changing positions, conflicting and also joint interest. And they have to find a way to collectively manage an environment that is more and more complex and more and more riddled with individual agendas.

Getting things done and delivering performance in such a world of complexity; making decisions and inspiring people who carry such differences within themselves; these are the competencies those who want to “improve as leaders” (not not “become leaders”) must develop.
But marketing is by nature highly creative, and I’m sure that in the not so distant future, the ultimate promise will be: “Whatever your age, become a born leader!”




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3 Responses to “Leadership and Cheap Leaders”


  1. By alainlaufenburger
    on December 14, 2010

    Nice shot ! It seems to me that good ol’ theory will soon rebirth, with a very primal scream. But not with the same toolbox. By the way, I appreciate the nice design of the new ICM notebook. Merry Christmas.

  2. As a business anthropologist, this is the kind of “anthropological thinking” companies are asking for. Business is a human affair and requires a humanistic, indeed holistic approach that includes our non-traditional ethnographic methods of inquiry (cool tools) to size up the company and pare down the dilemmas.


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