The Decline of Democracy – and the Leadership Industry

Anyone who reads this post and is familiar with my work is bound to be bored. For I return here to a familiar theme: the failure of the leadership industry. The inability of the leadership industry adequately to address our most pressing problems – and its refusal to be self-aware. To reflect and self-correct.

I take no pleasure in pointing out that this argument, which I have made for nearly a decade, seems now to have been prescient. For ten years after the publication of my book The End of Leadership, and for four years after the publication of my book Professionalizing Leadership, the deficiencies of the leadership industry have become blindingly clear.

How to defend the existing leadership industry in light of this history? A history in which its rise has precisely paralleled democracy’s decline. A history that is nothing if not a sorry trajectory.

I do not claim that if the leadership industry were reconceived it would be a magic bullet. What I do maintain that if the leadership industry were reconceived – reimagined and reconfigured from the bottom up – it would have a better shot, a much better shot, at contributing to our collective cause.

Democracy is not just about good leadership. It is at least as much about bad leadership. Democracy is not just about good leadership. It is at least as much about good followership. Until these lessons are learned, in the fight for democracy the industry will be a weak warrior.

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