Monday, September 03, 2007

Does Most Leadership Suck - The Challenge

All Thinking Bloggers

As many of you know, I am in the midst of writing a ChangeThis Manifesto titled “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours”. While I have some definite opinions on why this is the case, I know that not everyone feels the same way I do. As such, I am trying to develop a more-complete and balanced understanding of what other people think. To accomplish this task, I am challenging Bloggers to post an entry supporting their position. In my first round of challenges, I am tagging all of the great Blogs that made it on Priscilla Palmer’s Personal Development List.

To accept this challenge, write a post describing your thoughts on why most leadership sucks. If you don’t agree, that’s fine too. I’m not looking for people who agree with me. I’m looking for a better understanding of what people think. It is better to get a hundred honest posts with different opinions than the same number of “Yes-Man” posts that don’t move the question forward. So, if you disagree with me, post why.

As the replies come in, I will build a Challenge List linking back to all of the posts that you write.

So, if you are up to the challenge, write a post, link back to the Leadership Epidemic send me an e-mail or drop me a comment and let’s start a conversation.

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Take care and enjoy...

John

65 comments:

Priscilla Palmer said...

Thanks for the link, and the tag. I will write a post discussing this, (with a link to you of course) in the next few days.

Steve Roesler said...

Hello, John,

Sounds like fun to me. I'll weigh in one day this week, link, and give you a heads up.

Don't finish the manifesto first, ok? :-)

John W. McKenna said...

Steve

Thanks for accepting the challenge. I won’t finish the Manifesto until I get some good inputs to the challenge. I look forward to seeing your post.

Take care...

JWM

Al said...

Hello John - i'm not sure what's the purpose for this is.

Leadership is pretty broad - it applies to government leaders, business leaders, local community leaders, etc..., all with different issues going on. Can you be more specific or clarify?

John W. McKenna said...

Al

You bring up a good point. I'm thinking in terms of aggregated performance as leaders. So, in my mind, you could take your choice: government, business, local, etc...

In the end, all leaders serve a similar purpose across the operational environment. In my opinion, most of the time, they services they provide are lacking.

If you have a different take on it, I would like to hear what you think.

Take care...

JWM

Donna Karlin said...

Hey John....

Interesting dialogue you've started! There are leaders as in positions within organizations and there are leaders as in ways of being. Those are very different. Just because one is handed a position of leadership doesn't mean they have the skills and capabilities to lead. Many get to positions of power because of longevity, because they did something amazing at some level somewhere else and were snapped up. That doesn't mean those leadership skills are translatable to another organization.

This is a whole dialogue in itself, way more than can be fit in a comment box. Suffice it to say that this issue alone is one of the reasons why, as an executive leadership coach I've been so busy of late! Looking forward to what unfolds.

Thanks for inviting me into the conversation

John W. McKenna said...

Donna

It sounds like you are seeing a lot of what I've been seeing. At least in regard to distinguishing technical qualities not translating to distinguishing leadership performance. I hope this means you've accepted the challenge.

Take care...

JWM

Ask Lucid said...

Hi JWM!
I saw the message you left on my site. I must say I am a bit confused as to what you are requesting. Is it that you want me to post a comment on my own site mentioning yours(the link), or am I submitting one to you??? I don't view leadership in a negative light.... Please let me know, Thanks!

John W. McKenna said...

Lucid

To accept the challenge write a post about your view of the current state of leadership. It appears you have a more postitive view than mine. If you accept the challenge and write a post, let me know and I'll include you in the challenge list. I hope this helps.

Take care...

JWM

Perseus said...

John,

Nothing great could have been accomplished without leadership. We need to be careful not to stereotype bad or lack of leadership with a condemnation of the competency. Leadership has always been and continues to be among the most complex, risky, and uncertain of all human endeavors. Indeed, how could anyone have ever thought otherwise?
Leadership copes with the unknown, the dreams, and the vision that generates breakthrough performance. Accordingly, what one person views as possible may be a pipe dream to another. The subject of leadership is one where the results to be produced are accompanied by greater risk and uncertainty than what is normally considered to be acceptable in the realm of management (plenty of example available of smart guys failing). A scholarly gem of the Renaissance was Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513/1962). Machiavelli’s thesis is as good today as it was in 1513. It declared that “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

All the best,

PS. See this posting for graduate school work I did on the subject. http://biz-think.blogspot.com/2007/05/thoughts-on-leadership.html

Don Simkovich said...

Interesting topic to tag on . . . I've got some thoughts on the non-profit world and problems I've seen.

Herman Najoli said...

There's too much BS in leadership today. Look at what's happening to leadership in the religious community: domestic abuse, divorces, fights in Churches, terrorism - it's crazy! Look at what's happening in the business community - Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Insider trading, secret deals, etc. Look at what's happening in the political community - lies, lack of morals and ethical behavior, corruption, wrong focus (e.g. the war when thousands are dying from abortion, drugs, gang violence, etc daily). The senate and congress are full of platitudinous pabulum that is nothing but BS. Most board-rooms and committees wallow in BS. All those service organizations that tell me my call is important to them are just feeding me with more BS. My conclusion? Most leadership sucks.

Barbara Sltier said...

Great question John. I‘ll post later but here are some initial thoughts. When I joined the corporate world in the 70’s the emphasis was just shifting from management to leadership training. Corporations were floundering, attempting to deal with the early stages of globalization, rapid technological change, diversity and the need for faster response times in everything from manufacturing to product development. They needed help and thought part of the answer was changing managers into leaders who would envision and lead them to a brighter future. 30+ years later, leaders have not been the “John Wayne” to organizations in distress. Recurring leader-follower problems suggest leadership itself is a flawed system (e.g., see Peter Block’s Stewardship). What if we confused the need for planning & vision with the need for leaders? What if our belief that nothing good happens without a leader blinds us to our ability to co-create & self-organize? What if leadership is a Newtonian concept in a Quantum world?

Alexys Fairfield said...

Hi John,
I accept your leadership challenge and I will post on it this week.

Thanks

Leo said...

Hi John ... thanks for tagging me, but unfortunately this doesn't fit in with my blog topics. However, I'd like to respond here in this comment:

I don't really believe in the concept of leadership. It's an old-fashioned top-down approach, and the problem is that most of the work is done at the bottom or middle levels, while decisions are being made at the top. This is inefficient, as it creates decision bottlenecks at the top levels, while the bottom levels are the ones with the information and the need to make decisions.

The truth is that by empowering individuals and teams to make their own decisions, leadership is unnecessary. People are smart enough to lead themselves.

So the reason that "leadership" sucks is because it uses an inefficient and outdated model. It can't work and really, never has. For example:

Government is always accused of being corrupt. However, nothing will change as long as power rests at the top levels, because with power comes corruption.

Businesses are supposed to be better models, and yet in truth they contain the same problems of inefficiencies and bureaucracy and corruption as elsewhere, but as there is no transparency in business, it's not as obvious. Ask Microsoft if there's bureaucracy in business. See Enron for just one example of corporate corruption. The examples abound.

I'm not saying they don't work. I'm saying the model is outdated and inefficient. Open source software, for example, innovates at a much more rapid pace than corporate software (such as Microsoft's software) because it empowers the individuals within the open-source organization (a decentralized model), to some extent, while the corporate software companies don't have that kind of empowerment.

Anyway, I've rambled on too long, but to repeat my main point: get rid of this notion of "leadership" and allow those who need to make decisions to do it on their own, and lead themselves.

Lodewijkvdb said...

Hi John,

Very interesting subject and I happily accept the challenge (thanks for the tag).

As people have said before me leadership is a very broad concept. And has been given many different meanings. I have my own take on it, but you'll discover that in the article.

John W. McKenna said...

Perseus

I agree with your position. Believe me, I'm not a believer in throwing the baby out with the bath water. Additionally, I don't think that "all" leadership sucks. Rather, I believe "most" leadership sucks. I like the post your sent. Do you mind if I include it in the list?

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Herman

I can see you're fired up about this question. I'll take that as accepting the challenge. Let me know when you've made your post.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Don, Barbara, Alexys and Lodewijkvdb

I look forward to reading your posts.

Take care...

JWM

Heather said...

I'm glad I came by to check what others had written. I wasn't really sure what you meant by 'leadership sucks' in your tag comment but I have a better idea now. Will see what I can come up with. Thanks for the challenge. ;-)

John W. McKenna said...

Heather

I'm glad you came by to check things out. I'm looking forward to reading your post.

Take care...

JWM

Carlon Haas said...

I posted a response to your challenge in my blog. I usually don't blog on leadership. but I thought it would be a nice change. Please check it out.

http://carlonhaas.com/does-your-leadership-suck/

Monday Morning Power said...

I have read your post and all of the comments. To me, nothing has been clarified. "Leadership Sucks" is far too broad even in a very specific way. It would be different if you asked about a specific leader by name. Like everything in life there are good leaders and there are bad leaders but in the end, most everything is a matter of our own informed choice as to what we do and how we react. I'm sorry, but I feel that your premise is faulty as it stands. Since this is your challenge, I will post what I just stated if you want me to. Please respond with a comment on my site.
Respectfully,
MMP
http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com

John Pratt said...

Hi John,

Thanks for stopping by my blog...

Why Leadership Sucks?

Interesting idea. What kind of leaders are we talking about here... (politicians, teachers, managers, coaches, etc)
I can think of a few that SUCK :)

I will think about the question and make a post on my blog it in a few days and link back to you.

All the best,

John Pratt

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the tag. I'll have to think about this and see if I can make it fit into the topic of public speaking in some way. I'm not sure I agree that most leadership sucks, although I do agree that much of it does. . .

AgentSully said...

John,

I don't believe that most leaders suck because that is like saying most people suck.

Saying most leaders suck is not helpful to moving any cause forward.

All people are flawed, some seemingly more than others. When it is the case that a particular leader is corrupt or failing, then it is the responsibility of other interested parties to remove that person from their position.

Sometimes that can't happen immediately, and that can be frustrating, but over time, poor leaders are always rooted out eventually.

Everyone is a leader to someone in their life. As such, we each have a responsibility to do our best.

I think a useful discussion would be "how to be a good leader," "how to choose good leaders," and "how to support leaders while keeping them honest."

I agree with Perseus's comments above. It is difficult to be a good leader. Many people are ready to tear you down when you make a mistake.

The easy thing to do is to be one of the many in the crowd shouting "you suck." The more noble, challenging thing to do is to be a part of the solution. That requires work. When faced with that proposition, most people decide to just say "you suck" instead.

When I think about it more, the crowd holds an important role too. They are there to create energy and to cheer on the next leader who can fix what is wrong.

It's not simple or easy. Until there is a perfect human, there will always be imperfect leaders. We all just need to do our best in the role that we take on.

John W. McKenna said...

Carlon

I just read your post and left a comment to boot. I don't know where you get that you're not a "leadership guy". Your post was great!

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

MMP

I dropped by your blog and left a comment. I hope it helps... Please let me know if you have more thoughts and/or decide to write a post.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

John

Let me know when you've written your post so I can include it in the Challenge List.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Lisa

I've read your blog and I'm confident that you could turn anything into a Public Speaking post. I'd really like to know what you think.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Agentsully

Thank you for the thought you put in your comment. I hope I haven't come across as advocating that we stand in the crowd and yell, "You Suck!" Rather, I would like to see us all looking in the mirror, taking an honest assessment and asking, "How could we do better?"

If we don't know why we're doing poorly, we will never fix our flaws. If we try to fix ourselves by copying the traits of wildly famous "Leaders", we are more likely to make the situation worse.

Actually, that's exactly where I think we are when we find ourselves referring to our little red WWJD (What Would Jack Welch Do) bracelets when we encounter professional difficulties.

Now, I'm getting into another post.

Let me close with a pointer to Carlon's post. He has some good thoughts about where followership and I suppose the crowd fits in the Leadership Challenge.

Let me know if you make this a post on your blog so I can place it in the Challenge List.

Take care...

JWM

Halina Goldstein said...

Hi John

I appreciate you tagging me at the Inner Travel Journal. I just posted my contribution titled If The World Didn't Suck

Many greetings -

Halina

Paul said...

Sure. I'll bite.

Most leadership sucks because most people in leadership roles weren't put there because they were good leaders.

They were put there because they were good managers.

Management and leadership are two radically different skills. Yet they continually get lumped together as one mass, where it is assumed that good skills in one area lead to good skills in another, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Monday Morning Power said...

Challenge accepted and posted:
http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/09/challenge-on-leadership.html

p.s. you should read this post as well: http://mondaymorningpower.blogspot.com/2007/09/pet-peeve.html

Jim Stroup said...

John - thanks for the tag! I'll follow up shortly.

Jason said...

I wrote a post for this topic, but my trackback isn't showing up in your "Links To This Post" section.

So here's a direct link:
5 Reasons Why Companies Fail To Find Good Leaders

Lisa Gates said...

John, thanks for tagging me at Design Your Writing Life.

In my work with clients who are building businesses and writing careers I have noticed a definite lack of self leadership, stewardship, and responsibility. If I were going to finger point, and I will, it's how we have, up until now, deified the institution and the corporation and abdicated personal responsibility. So, where I'd go with this, ironically, is inside parenting and inside education.

Thanks for getting the engines fired up!

John W. McKenna said...

MMP

I have the same pet peeve. I'm glad someone was kind enough to let me know they had the same problem ;-)

Take care...

JWM

Jennifer said...

Hi John,

I took your challenge. :-)

I took the liberty of addressing your question from a slightly different angle. Hope that is OK!

I'm glad to have found your very excellent site!

Warmest wishes,

Jennifer

http://goodnessgraciousness.blogspot.com

Sam Chan said...

Hi John

I had some posts in regards to leadership in the past. Hope it is useful.

Understanding Leadership
The Art of Leadership

It is never easy to be a good leader. Good leader is in goodness, humility, service and character.

Best Wishes
Let's Acquire Wisdom and Live with Passion

Erin said...

Hi John,

After Priscilla Palmer's self development list Jenny and I have decided to try to help build the self development community. So we are holding a little contest. I would like to invite you, and anyone else interested, to find out more details at After Priscilla Palmer's self development list Jenny and I have decided to try to help build the self development community. So we are holding a little contest. I would like to invite you, and anyone else interested, to find out more details at jenny-and-erin.com/2007/09/win-a-25-gift-certificate/

Lodewijkvdb said...

Hi John,

You can find my article here:
Does your (personal) leadership suck?

I'm curious to see the other entries, I'll be looking for that list.

The WorkLife Monitor with Judy Martin said...

Hi John,

I enjoyed engaging your challenge.
I think you've opened a great big door into a discussion that needs to happen. But not superficially. I'd like to hear more about what makes an extraordinary and conscious leader in a crazed and diverse radically changing work and business culture. C'mon it ain't easy out there in the new global world. Here's a taste of my post:

Delving into the Mind of a Leader:

My curiosity was piqued by John McKenna's blog post, Does Most Leadership Suck - The Challenge.

I can't say that I agree with that statement merely on the premise that it's hard to quantify. One is left to their own inner discussion about leadership based on numerous points of reference including:

Individual experience as company rank and file
Individual experience as company brass
How easily one succumbs to the influence of media
What people read in the trade pubs
Which leadership book of the week is getting the most press

The initial cold response to the leadership question is that we need to discuss not leadership principles, but the human beings that make up the leadership and what drives them as individuals. We need to ask them some questions.

You can read more of the post at:
http://www.worklifemonitor.com/the_chaos_monitor/2007/09/delving-into-th.html

Thanks for starting the discussion,
All the best, Judy

Erin said...

Hey John,
Thanks for including us in your challenge. Jenny and I posted our response this morning. Enjoy!

Top 10 Reasons Being a Leader Sucks.

tim said...

John.
Appreciate the tag. Got a couple of ideas that I'll let marinate in my head and put a post up.

John W. McKenna said...

Judy

I'm glad you decided to post yuor thoughts even if yuo don't agree with me. I think you have a great post. As I said in the tag, I'm not looking for people to agree with me, I'm trying to start a conversation.

I hope you've gone out and tagged your favorite bloggers as part of the challenge.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Erin

I like how you took a different approach to the challenge. No wrong answers here.

I particularly like reason 10, in fact, reason 10 is the why I started this Blog. A leader's choices affect people's lives. None of us should take that responsibility too lightly.

Thanks again and take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Tim and all the other Blogger thining about accepting the challenge, I would like to encourage you to, "just do it!"

The longer you wait, the less likely it will happen. So quit waiting for perfect. I mean really, the worst that can happne is you will get a link to your post ;-)

So get writting...

Take care...

JWM

Michelle said...

I've posted too in my blog (and sent you an email :)).

I consider myself very non-expert in this subject though.

I may have completely missed the "point" of your theme perhaps as i've just gone off on a whim and let my mind wander across the subject with not a lot of real construction as to my thoughts on it. (I write a lot of my blogs like this...just let what is inside my head come out on the virtual paper *blush*).

Some very pertinent and applicable concepts about Leadership are present here in among the comments too and I can totally see how broad and far-reaching this subject is becoming. I did not read ANYTHING before I wrote my blog...partly deliberately so I wouldn't get too confused by all the possibilities. Thankgoodness I had that foresight. I would have probably written something very different from what I have if I'd read all this amazing stuff beforehand. :)

If the Leadership of our current millieu does indeed "suck" then it may stand to reason, that this is why a part of the collective masses (aka PD bloggers)...are beginning to question the effectiveness of this leadership through conversations such as this one.

This, I hope, will lead to a greater understanding and collective will among the wider populations of the world to be more effective in the future in all our leadership undertakings.

There appears to be a burgeoning movement toward making Leadership more a flattened out thing across the whole community with no one figure at the "top" of the pile.

I doubt it will work quite frankly. We will ALWAYS have people who lead us whether they personally want to not; whether they are personally aware and we are collectively aware that they are leading or not. There are just SOME people in the world who will be leaders of groups no matter how much we try not to make it so.

There is always a "buck" that has to stop somewhere. There is always place where the really tough decisions must prevail and the responsiblity for the consequences must inally rest. This works for both Leadership Within and Leadership Without.

shoot... I should have perhaps written another blog *blush* :)

you've hit a nerve with me I think Mr McKenna.

michelle

Ramiro said...

John,

we all have to take the leader place sometimes in our lives and it does not have to be a reluctant expirience .

Vernon
CharmTips

Don Simkovich said...

Hi John, I posted a thought inspired by your challenge.

I'll also try to write a post titled "when leaders inspire."

Chris Marshall said...

John, I've written two posts on the topic of leadership. Add one or both to the list:

Is Sensei a Lemon? Uncertainty and the Karate Market
You Have The Sensei You Deserve

Jean Browman said...

Hi, John,
I was planning to work your challenge into my Monday post at Cheerful Monk, but it just didn't fit. You might like the first picture in the post, though. I'm the fellow in green, obviously not the follower type.

Anyway, sounds as if you've received a lot of feedback without my meager efforts.

Cheers!

Jean Browman
Cheerful Monk
Transforming Stress Into Personal Power

Mark said...

I like this challange. You shall see a post soon.

John W. McKenna said...

Ramiro

From your comment and a review of your site, I'll bet you have some more expansive thoughts on Leadership. Not everyone needs to think "Most Leadership Sucks..."

You should take the challenge and tell us what you are really thinking.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Hey Don

Great post... I think you're onto something with point #3 and responsibility rings. It is a key to any relationship, leadership or otherwise.

I'm looking forward to seeing "When Leaders Inspire”. Let me know when its done and I'll add it to the post.

Take care...

JMW

John W. McKenna said...

Jean

I'm sorry you couldn't make the challenge fit into your Blog. I would have thought it was a good fit. Maybe not in the original incarnation of the question, but in your interpretation of the role leadership plays in our lives. Perhaps, you'll be inspired. If not, I appreciate the careful thought you put into participating in the challenge. I’ll certainly be happy to include you in future thought projects.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

Mark

I'm looking forward to your post. While you’re between thoughts, be sure to keep the conversation going by tagging three of your favorite bloggers for the challenge.

Take care...

JWM

John W. McKenna said...

All Thinking Bloggers

If I have missed your post to this challenge, please send me an e-mail and I will add your response to The Challenge List.

Take care all...

JWM

Mark said...

John,
I have stepped up the plate and took a swing, let me know if it is a hit. Thanks for this challange, I enjoyed it.
You can find my article at http://tobeme.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/does-most-leadership-suck-a-challange/.

tim said...

John...

I've responded!
http://studentlinc.typepad.com/studentlinc/2007/09/what-sucks-abou.html

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