Leadership lost

To borrow from Milton (Paradise Lost), I believe institutional and organizational leadership is lost. Lost in a miasma of mediocrity, indecision, and analysis paralysis. As the magnifying glass of public, shareholder, and media scrutiny exponentially globalizes and insatiably continues its hot scrutiny many so-called leaders are shrinking or tightly closing their eyes with the hope that it they don’t see, then they can’t be seen.

All the leadership courses and workshops, books and YouTube videos in the world are very unlikely to go to the heart of what keeps individuals from changing their approach to how they behave and that is fear. Fear of losing power, pride, purpose, and profit.

As we climb the ladder of what we define as success the aperture in our lens of understanding and openness can actually narrow significantly. It occurs over time, sometimes being insidious and deceivingly incremental  Those in positional power can especially succumb to conscious and unconscious viewpoints, all strongly protected from countervailing thought.

The concept of “I don’t know” or “I can’t do this” becomes anathema to the micro-visioned leader. Those are words they can deeply fear.

The journey within, of course, is far more difficult to travel than outward journeys of leadership development programs and 10 top tips. Almost always it requires a trusted guide with very different emotional tradecraft than a leadership workshop facilitator or motivational speaker.

We continue to want to “teach” leadership but I wonder if it really is a matter of “teaching.” Some believe that the goal of leadership development programs is to change behavior. Behavior can be quite easily changed, at least for the short time. Simply provide the incentives or disincentives and in Pavlovian fashion a leader is born.  But attitudes are something else. Attitudes are very deeply  ingrained, the manifestation of gender, age, experience, education, culture, faith, and many other conscious and unconscious drivers of what we feel and think.

The reason I believe that we find leadership lost today is that rather than seek the answers from within ourselves, often a long and sometimes troubling journey with uncertain outcomes, we look for the quick external fix. The latest guru; the hottest book; the slickly-designed workshop and training program. And at the end we too often find ourselves even more lost in the leadership forest, feeling more vulnerable and fearful as ever.

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