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December 3, 2011

Seduced by the Cult of Leadership?


The sheer amount of management literature about Leadership is huge and it continues to grow. Leadership is covered from just about every angle, e.g. ethics, intelligence, heroism, cunning, character, risk, strength, meanness, weaknesses, spiritual, religious, sexual, psychological, historical and other traits ad infinitum. But, are they right? Personally, a lot of the material that I have read on the subject at best it seems to be wishful thinking and at worse, apologetic drivel.

However, I cannot recall having read or heard, not even remotely, questioning if we should have leaders at all. It is as if this human paradigm is based on some mysterious, immutable and obscure physical or biological law. Why?

While thinking about the essence of leadership, (Plato’s theory of forms) I sometimes wonder if we are giving leaders god like attributes that immediately distorts the true nature of their human frailties; thus, separating them from us, mere mortals. I understand but do not share in the willingness by untold millions that try to live vicariously throughout the “rich & famous leaders” which they have chosen to follow; perhaps to get a boost from the drudgery of their very own lives.

And in here lies one of the basic problems. If we choose to admire, follow, be loyal to or simply adore a given leader, our capacity to perform a balanced and reasoned judgment goes out the window.

We hear that “we hold our leaders to the highest standard,” but do we really? Is there truly any accountability? Just as the ancient Greeks could not hold the Olympian Gods accountable because the whole idea would seem preposterous; are we not on the same boat?

Sometimes it feels like I am living in Bizarro’s world!

When I say leadership you may conjure up images of Prime ministers, Presidents, CEOs, Captains of industry and the whole lot. But no, I mean leaders at every rung of our human civilization, e.g. foreman, supervisor, manager, counselor, village doctor, teacher, tribal leader, etc.

We give them money, power, some leeway and the pressures of those complex systems that bind them and of course in many cases abuse of power ensues or simply put, they fail our expectations. But then again they are only human; how else are they going to behave? Ask yourself: Do you think you could do it better? … yeah, I thought so!

Lastly, I am not being facetious nor am I flame baiting; I would really like to know from you. Now it’s your turn… what do you think?

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