Writing in the Financial Times, Simon Caulkin asked a powerful question: “Have we created an unachievable myth of leadership?” His opening paragraph said:
Leadership is possibly the most written, lectured, TED-talked and blogged about topic in management. Companies in the US alone are reckoned to spend $14bn-$20bn on leadership development and training every year. It is a staple of business courses. Yet despite the confidence with which formulae are dispensed for success in transformational, authentic, servant or level-five leadership, to name some current varieties, it may also be the least understood.
Not only are the concepts of leadership misunderstood, but confidence in leaders is also low. Calkin wrote:
Consider: never has public trust in corporate leaders been so low. That may be no surprise. Among contributory causes to the crash of 2008, leadership failure ranks high, as it does in the rule of greed and the rise of inequality. Other leaders do not trust them: witness the increasing speed with which boards push peers out of top office. That is no surprise either, given the finding of a survey of research studies of leadership compiled by the Center for Creative Leadership, a training provider, that half of all managers and leaders are seen as “a disappointment, incompetent, a mis-hire or a complete failure” in their current role. In another study, 35 percent of US employees said they would forgo a pay raise to see their direct supervisors fired.
He went on to ask, “Have we created unrealistic expectations that those at the top will never be able to match?” Clearly, Caulkin presents impressive data about disappointments with leadership and raises an interesting question about myths regarding leadership.