About the folly of creating Leaders

Consultants, Talent Managers and ‘academia’ are completely sold on and preoccupied with turning promising young talent into ‘Leaders’ and they are causing considerable harm with this.

Every consultant worth his/her salt seems to be offering something concerning ‘leader*’: from leadership assessment methodologies, over style evaluation, to leadership development

This is lemming leadership at its best.

If you want to create sustainable high performance or organizational excellence, this preoccupation with turning promising talent into budding leaders is as useful as an additional hole in the head – it doesn’t help you and it may even kill you.

We know, this statement constitutes heresy (again), but there we are.

Let us look at the current craze in a bit more detail. Organizations became increasingly disenchanted with the effectiveness and performance of current management. Fair enough.
No dispute here: current management is ineffective.
Then someone came on the idea of calling Senior Managers ‘Leaders’, implying leadership competencies, and suddenly it was all about leaders and leadership and a two tier system was created: you had ‘leaders’ – the good guys and high performing – and you had ‘managers’, well, yesterday’s guys, and good for transaction tasks, if any.

And at this point it all went terribly wrong.

‘Leader’ as well as ‘Manager’ are labels of authority, and if you designate Senior Managers now politically correct as ‘Leaders’ it bolsters their ego, nothing else.
‘Leadership’, as such, has nothing to do with level of authority; Leadership is a competency, or rather a competency cluster.

Does a high performance organization require people who are competent in this competency cluster? Absolutely!  And desperately so!

But what it doesn’t need is that competency cluster transmuted to behavior/trait/inborn/magic and limited to the top echelon of authority.
Managers – as guiding, facilitating, strategic authority level in an organization –, not only senior managers, but managers at all levels, need to be able to master leadership as one requisite competency cluster.  We need to be aware, however, that being competent in ‘leadership’ is a necessary competency requirement for managers, but not a sufficient on. In order to be effective, managers at all levels need to master the competency clusters ‘Facilitation’ and ‘Strategic Thinking’ aside from ‘Leadership.’

In order to create sustainable high performance or excellent organizations do need to re-define competency requirements for managers and have to clarify management purpose, because the lack of these two is at the root of the current management crisis.

Following blindly the frantic call to convert all available talent into ‘leaders’ will not solve anything

And as long as we keep this spurious distinction between ‘Leaders’ and ‘Managers’ our organizations will perform sub-optimal.

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