The Demise of the Speaker as Leader

What’s happening in Congress right now boggles the mind. The very idea that the position of Speaker of the House is going begging beggars belief. The incumbent Speaker John Boehner is desperate to quit. His apparent heir apparent Kevin McCarthy has dropped out of the running to succeed him. And another obvious choice, Paul Ryan, insists (at least for the moment) that he has no interest in taking the job.

This is not a crisis of leadership. It is a crisis of followership. The reason being Speaker seems so dismally daunting is because unlike in the old days, when the position had some power, some authority, and some influence, the Speaker now has no power, scant authority, and precious little influence.

Why? Because many members of Congress – especially but by no means exclusively House Republicans – are hellbent on doing their own thing. Many members of Congress have no conception of what it takes to make a good group capable of doing good things. By their refusing to go along with leaders who do not echo their views, we the American people ares stuck with a joke of a legislature – one that smacks more of a banana republic than a great nation.

Those of us in the leadership industry share some of the blame. By overemphasizing the importance of leadership, and underplaying the importance of followership, we devalue what is essential to being functional.

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