The Tragedy of the Leadership Industry

Bad leadership in American politics has become as endemic as extreme. The President, along with some members of Congress, are violating every premise and principle on which conceptions of good leadership historically have been based.  Some are components of character – such as decency and integrity. Others are instruments of intelligence – such as information and ideas. Still others are parts of personality – such as flexibility and receptivity. Every one of these fundamentals – fundamentals of good leadership – has been tossed aside, ripped asunder by the tsunami that is the Trump presidency.

The tragedy of the “leadership industry” – my catchall term for the now countless leadership centers, institutes, programs, courses, seminars, workshops, experiences, trainers, books, blogs, article, websites, webinars, videos, conferences, consultants, and coaches that claim to teach people how to lead – is that it has nothing to say about any of this. Some forty years after its inception, the leadership industry still sees fit to focus its attention, laser-like, on how to grow good leaders, while it ignores entirely the perennial, pernicious problem of how to stop bad leaders.

One could argue that in good times this obsession with developing good leaders is understandable – if only because in professing to develop good leaders there’s good money to be made. But when times are bad – particularly when the president is as ignoble as ignorant – for the leadership industry to play ostrich is inexcusable. Indefensible.

Some day we – we who constitute the leadership industry – will pay a price for our unwillingness to educate people about bad leadership. And some day we will pay a price for our unwillingness to train followers how to upend bad leaders. Meantime the American experiment and experience remain under threat.


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