Leadership “wisdom” that makes me crazy

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Did you know that there are almost 300 books that Amazon thinks contain “leadership secrets?” Do a Google search for the phrase and you’ll get more than nine million results in about half a second. That makes me crazy.

We’ve studied leaders and leadership for millennia. Is it really possible that there’s a secret out there that we haven’t uncovered? This sounds to me like those “medical breakthroughs” that are announced in infomercials.

Those thoughts started me thinking about other “leadership” things that make me crazy. Here they are in no particular order.

Anyone can lead

Really? In theory maybe, but in real life there are people who don’t want the accountability. Others are pathologically afraid of confrontation. And there are others who won’t make decisions. Anyone can have influence, but not everyone is willing to lead.

Don’t bring me a problem unless you bring a solution.

Oh right! If I see a problem and can’t find a solution you don’t want to know about it? Do you really think it’s better to go on in blissful ignorance until the problem blows up all over you? Besides, problems are often where progress starts.

That stupid bus!

Getting the right people on the bus and then deciding where to go sounds good, until you think about it. First off, most managers don’t get that luxury. They have to achieve the goals they’re given with the people they’ve got. But more fundamentally, how can you know the characteristics of “the right people” until you know where you’re going?

For the record, this might make sense for some start-ups. It did for Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

Leaders versus Managers

Argh! I don’t care what Warren Bennis said. It’s not about people. It’s about different kinds of work. If you’re responsible for the performance of a group you have to lead and you have to manage and you have to supervise. You don’t get a choice.

For the record, Peter Drucker never talked about leaders and managers as separate kinds of people, but he did discuss leadership and management.

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