Leadership

Is leadership research betraying leaders?

If the purpose of research is to solve problems, then the question emerges of what the problem is and who has the problem. The purpose of medical research, for instance, is to provide those who practice medicine with knowledge that enables them to cure diseases, to relieve pain, and to enhance individuals’ health. Medical research thus benefits patients.

I believe […]

Are you a leader or a manager?

The title of this article sounds like a trick question – it would seem the answer should be “leader”. But have you ever thought about what a manager does? Managers set up the systems that allow the organisation to run smoothly and efficiently. They ensure budgets are followed, timelines are met, and employees are trained and engaged. Without managers, […]

Looking for leadership guidance in classic philosophy

Some people contend that authentic leadership is more ethical and compelling. Authenticity depends on aligning what you do and say on the outside with who you are on the inside. They recommend looking inward to find your true self and core beliefs. Experts offer to help leaders bring to the surface what they find deep down.

Oddly, three celebrated philosophers […]

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    The media play a role in deciding who is an authentic leader

The media play a role in deciding who is an authentic leader

What is the electoral appeal in political candidates as different as Corbyn, Trump and Macron? Political commentary indicates that it is because they are “real”, true to themselves, and in that way, unlike the “typical” politician.

This commentary finds support in the academic literature on authentic leadership, where it is argued that the leaders who inspire confidence, optimism and trust […]

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    Why do unethical leaders thrive, despite all talk to the contrary?

Why do unethical leaders thrive, despite all talk to the contrary?

The disappearance of the iron curtain in the early 1990s led many social and political analysts to believe that liberal democracy had prevailed as the “winning” political system of humankind. At the same time, egalitarianism, positivity, and humanism (along with mainstream Western ethics) came to dominate the textbook versions of organisational life and leadership. At the very least, it […]

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    Leadership: The measurable impact of inspiring a sense of purpose

Leadership: The measurable impact of inspiring a sense of purpose

When we need to create change, the evidence shows that money and fear are poor motivators. Finding a common inspiration is an alternative that works. Leaders have the privilege and responsibility of generating alignment to a common purpose.

This is acutely true when there is a crisis or urgency to change the performance of a business. Arriving in these situations, […]

Authentic leaders tend to be effective as managers

Leadership is the process of influencing a group of individuals to achieve shared objectives. The primary function of leadership is to produce change and movement, while the primary function of management is to provide order and consistency to organisations. As both leadership and management are processes, anybody can execute leadership or managerial functions at different times. Leaders cannot be […]

Leadership studies: All bridges have been burned

Leadership has been a scientific discipline for over 100 years. The magnitude of research has increased tremendously. A variety of leadership concepts and theories has been proposed. Now, I have identified types of leadership theories in order to understand the present fissured state of leadership research.

Leadership theories may be categorised according to the following criteria: (1) theoretical assumptions on […]

A bit of madness is good for leadership potential

Successful leaders possess a personality disorder, and a modicum of psychopathology is a prerequisite for exceptional performance. Influenced by recent advances in neuroscience and genetics, I argue in a book that leadership and followership are evolutionary adaptations that developed in order to enhance group cohesion, to maximise chances for survival and reproduction, two basic functions of living organisms. A prodigious […]

It’s ok for leaders to have a sense of humour

A good sense of humour is often regarded as an important factor for successful leadership. It is an important way successful leaders motivate their followers and gain their support. For example, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was hit by an egg thrown by an angry protester in a rally. He responded humorously and said “this guy owes me bacon […]

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    Can philosophy teach us anything about leadership and management?

Can philosophy teach us anything about leadership and management?

Philosophy can teach us much about leadership and management, but you would not guess it from the two recent books by Robert Spillane and Jean-Etienne Joullié, Philosophy of Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Philosophical Foundations of Management Thought (Lexington). The premise of each is this: the roots of our thinking about leadership and management reach deep into ancient times, and we […]

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    The experience of an early-life disaster affects how a CEO relates to risk

The experience of an early-life disaster affects how a CEO relates to risk

During most of Steve Job’s tenure as CEO of Apple Inc. the company did not have any long-term debt obligations. Apple started an aggressive buyback program only after Tim Cook took over, simultaneously adding debt to its capital structure. Coincidentally, San Francisco, where Steve Jobs was born, experienced more disaster-related fatalities during Jobs’ formative years than Tim Cook’s birthplace […]

Leaders get the teams they deserve

Consider the exasperation of a CEO when their top team is underperforming. “Why is this happening?” they ask. Dig down and the answer is that leaders get the teams they deserve. The team’s dynamics are a reflection of the leader. In the C-suite this can mean that the top team is dominated by the CEO. They spend their time […]

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    Putting servant leadership to the test and doing away with scepticism

Putting servant leadership to the test and doing away with scepticism

It is not uncommon today, in both non-profit and for-profit organisations, for servant leadership to be used as a term to speak well of current leaders or to describe what is expected of future leaders. After all, if an organisation values their employees or demonstrates concern for its customers or community, isn’t this servant leadership? It may well be, […]

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    There’s no innovation without anger (think Lars von Trier and Steve Jobs)

There’s no innovation without anger (think Lars von Trier and Steve Jobs)

Despite having different professions, the entrepreneur Steve Jobs and the film director Lars von Trier have one thing in common: they are both notorious for their outbursts of anger or irritation and for bringing about shifts in mood between disturbance and enthusiasm. Far from being a coincidence, this appears to be a result of their extraordinarily creative and innovative […]

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    How leaders can enable employees to voice more and quit less

How leaders can enable employees to voice more and quit less

Interested in hearing genuine suggestions from subordinates? Want to reduce their turnover? Actually you can achieve both together by learning to become an ethical leader. In a recent study, my co-authors and I studied whether supervisory ethical leadership can engage employees more on their jobs, and in turn, influence the likelihood that they will speak up more and stay […]

Change starts with a leader’s ability to look inward

Most of us only embark on change if we can travel in ways that reinforce existing patterns. That’s the paradox. We seek a new what by comfortably using the same how.

In my work assisting leaders navigate large complex transition, I define change as the “disturbance of repeating patterns”. Unless leaders can pay as equal attention to the system-changing process […]

How to co-lead a team

Blue Angels maneuvers, Kaneohe Bay Air Show 2010, by Lance Cpl. Tyler L. Main, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
We don’t lead alone. We lead with others. The days of the ‘Great Man’ theory of Leadership – where one sole leader rules over the masses from their ivory tower, are long gone.

Some of us quite literally lead with another person – […]

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    Exporters to countries that value CEO power will have more powerful CEOs

Exporters to countries that value CEO power will have more powerful CEOs

Silicon Valley from above, by Patrick Nouhailler, under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 licence
Corporate governance scholars have long argued that a board of directors can serve a legitimising role for their organisation. But strong CEO power, in their view, can be de-legitimating because of its non-compliance with “good governance” principles.
By legitimacy, in corporate governance terms, we mean that there is a perception that […]

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    From apartheid to today’s divided politics: a CEO calls for responsive leadership

From apartheid to today’s divided politics: a CEO calls for responsive leadership

Syrian refugees, by Freedom House, Public Domain
In three months’ time, the world’s leaders will gather in Davos and the world’s citizens will ask of us: what have you been doing all these years to make the world a better place? The world is fraying as social and economic inequity increases. It’s no surprise that frustration is mounting. We see this reflected in […]