Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Most Leadership Sucks and What You Can Do About It - Part II

In Part I, I closed with three observations:

  1. You are part of the reason why most leadership sucks at your organization.
  2. When it comes to leadership, you are not and may never be a great leader.
  3. The skill set that brought you to the leadership table is not the same skill set that will enable you to succeed.

Before we get into addressing observation number three, I need to address some of the e-mail comments that I received last week regarding these observations.

First, some house keeping. In my mind, when people e-mail me, they are saying that they would like to maintain a certain level of privacy with the communication at hand, so I do not post e-mails I receive to the Blog. If you would like to make your comments public, please feel free to use the comment link at the bottom of the post.

I believe the reason I received so many e-mails and as of today, no comments, on last-week’s entry is that 100% of the e-mails were negative. The nicer e-mails went something along the lines that my observations were a bit too cynical for the sender’s taste or were divergent from their views. As for the less-nice ones, let’s just say that some people are rather creative in how they express an opposing opinion.

Now, I could say I was sorry for offending the sensibilities of some of my readers, but I have to be honest, I’m not and here is why.

First, regardless of what the Leadership Industrial Complex (LIC) has been selling you, great leadership ability is not the be-all and end-all attribute of a successful organization, project or career. Contrary to the Conventional Leadership Wisdom, great leadership is not king. In reality, adequate leadership that meets certain minimal essential requirements (MER) is sufficient, often times more than sufficient, to generate exceptional outcomes.

Second, unless you are willing to become dedicated to the truth, to accept the truth, regardless of how distasteful you find the truth, you will never fully accept the responsibility required to make the necessary changes you will have to make to become a competent leader.

Finally, if you found your sensibilities offended by last week’s observations than you’re not ready to take on real leadership challenges and this Blog may not be your cup of tea; consider coming back when you are ready to face the real world.

For the rest of you, those of you who are ready to begin addressing the shortfalls in your ability to meet real-world leadership challenges, let’s get back to observation number three, “The skill set that brought you to the leadership table is not the same skill set that will enable you to succeed.”

To understand why the skill set that brought you to the leadership table won’t enable you to succeed we need to tackle one of the most difficult questions every leader must eventually face, “What is leadership?”

Think about your definition, send me a comment and I will share my answer in the next entry.

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1 comment:

Oldude59 said...


The “truth” – I am often puzzled by that word – as we have discussed, so am I puzzled by the term “leadership”. In those times when I am uncertain of what to make of terms my instincts turn to engaging others in dialogue.

For me the “truth” or what I think you mean is equal to rational thought, which I see taking place in free questioning between human beings. Those are not my sentiments exclusively, I learned the turn of this phrase from reading Jurgen Habermas in his epistemological argument. However, like Habermas I think that to say dialogue is a pure form of rationality or “truth” is to be a little na├»ve. For power (the great silencer) is seen all around us. Power distorts who can, or will speak up. Sometimes that power is self inflected through denials that we heap upon ourselves; other times it’s a lack of skill or knowledge that thwarts of the capacity to share our wisdom. There are those other times when what we really want to do is simply lurk and it takes all our strength to come from out of the shadows to speak our mind. But the least of these, I believe is, if anything is said at all, is “personal offense” towards the “truth”.

So, what needs to happen to overcome these effects of power, we need to establish what Habermas calls an “ideal speech situation”: a situation where any assumption can be subject to critique and all viewpoints can be heard. For all viewpoints to be heard, the ideal speech situation would have to extend debate to every citizen of the world, both present and future. Which given Blogs and social media is quite possible – this is if an open invitation is extended to all. By the way, you are inviting us to speak up – right?