Fernando Bartolomé, Professor of Management, Instituto de Empresa.
Personally, I am sick and tired of reading descriptions of leadership seminars, courses and workshops on leadership and of the thousands of "leadership products" generated by the leadership industry, from the most banal to the most arcane and esoteric.
My main objections are:
1. Most models about leadership reflect the unrealistic fantasies of academics and other management gurus. And they contribute to the development of unrealistic descriptions of leadership and, even more unrealistic, descriptions of leaders. A good part of the leadership literature describes heroic, humane, enlightened leaders that never existed. (Having built up these idols, many of these myth makers seem to disappear when the idols fall. At that time a new "leadership specialist" arrives to propose wonderfully logical and sophisticated theories about why those leaders failed. By doing this, the expert proposes an alternative model of "flawless, virtuous leadership". The message is: "If you had taken my course or read my book, you would never have made those stupid mistakes".
2. But leadership experts go beyond building unrealistic images of leadership. They proceed next to build sophisticated instruments to asses the leadership potential of individual managers. The effects of this can be devastating to the manager who finds that he/she lacks vision and the capacity to inspire others, is weak in self-awareness, has limited emotional intelligence and lacks a fine-tuned sense of ethics. (Fortunately, most of the people who became good leaders did not fill in those assessment questionnaires before they embarked in their adventure).
3. These courses and other pedagogical approaches are useless for another basic reason: most managers in any organization will never be asked to act as leaders but simply to act as managers in charge of implementing ideas and projects that emanate from the top.
Conclusion: It is about time that we give up the fantasy that we are in the business of helping people become leaders. And that we accept that it is good enough if they learn to be creative and effective as managers, who are basically asked to implement the ideas, good and bad that roll down from Mount Olympus. (Part of their creativity should focus on learning how to sabotage the many stupid ideas flowing from the top).