My most recent book – Hard Times: Leadership in America – was published in October by Stanford University Press. The book explores the impact of context on leadership and followership.
Beginning February 3, I started posting in this space excerpts. They appear here in the order in which they appear in the book.
Excerpt from Chapter 6 – Institutions
“Differences among and between generations confirm, not disconfirm, that what I am describing is a phenomenon much more likely to be enduring than evanescent. That fact is that young people are even less disposed than their elders to trust people in positions of authority – leaders of institutions…. It is of course possible that people change over time – become more trusting as they age. It’s equally possible, even probable, that succeeding generations will have even less confidence in American institutions than do their immediate predecessors.
American institutions are not now what once they were. Or, at least, they seem to us in the present not to be what they were in the past. Perhaps we romanticize what’s long gone and demonize what’s here and now. However, from the perspective of a leader trying to get others to follow, to go along, it does not much matter. The bottom line is that even the best and brightest of the leadership class are now saddled with a reputational problem. Both they and the institutions for which they are responsible carry an albatross – skepticism, even suspicion – that cumulates to a considerable, cumbersome burden.”