Other Side Consulting - Saving the world one manager at a time

Colleagues send LeadershiT sound bites

I’ve decided to kill the next person who sends me a cute leadership saying.
— Leigh (OSC)

I really have! The upside, if I get away with it, will be that my action has a high probability of adding value to the bottom line, especially if the person happens to be in the public sector, ideally a CEO.

I set up a twitter feed that tracked #leadership and #leadershipdevelopment. It was like watching the reels on a poker machine except it never stopped. Read the following pearls of "anything but" wisdom that I grabbed at random from the steaming pile.

  • Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
  • Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
  • A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.
  • The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.

Can anyone not see the ridiculousness in these sayings? Do you think they make my job any easier? If the art of leadership is saying no then we pay a lot of very average people obscene sums of money to do that.

If I summed the collective wisdom contained in these memes that get circulated with nauseating regularity the result would be that leadership is basically common sense. And it has been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The real wisdom that has been completely omitted from the regurgitated material is that leadership is a piece of the puzzle and not the whole picture. Leadership is part of management and not, as the leadership industry would like you to believe, a separate calling for managements best and brightest. In fact if you replace the word “leader” or “leadership” with “good manager” or “good management” the phrases contain identical sentiments albeit they are still vomit inducing.

Unfortunately the leadership industry has been startlingly successful in capturing a flock of people who have brought into the leadership concept hook, line and sinker. They have sold it as a cure-all for managers in exactly the same way snake-oil used to be sold. A substance with no real value sold as a remedy for everything.

You don’t need to manage any more, just lead the way and your “followers” will dutifully do your job for you. The result is legions of sub-standard managers who believe they are leaders and fail to notice that they aren’t wearing any clothes. Luckily for them they are usually surrounded with like-minded people who are incapable of seeing the obvious.

So before you send me anymore of this inane drivel, I suggest you bolt your office door (I hope you read this in time - John).

Roger McEwanComment