How Business Schools Get Leadership Wrong

Ask what it means to be a “good leader” and most of us would be able to provide a decent description. We might imagine a king on his throne, surveying his subjects and his land, ruling with the implacable iron fist that has been his family’s stock in trade for centuries.

Or the brave warrior, leading her troops, powered by a deep sense of conviction. For many people, notions of leadership are rooted in such traditional cultural archetypes.

Against this backdrop, new theoretical modes and models of leadership have sprung up as frequently as most of us change our socks. But a core belief underpins most of them: that there is a gold standard for leadership, a sort of platonic ideal that we all need to be taught.

Business schools each offer multiple different programmes on leadership, implying that the development journey is vast, life-long and uniform. This line of argument is helpful if you want to make money from learning and development. How well it serves the business community is another question altogether. A definition of leadership that is rooted in static, idealised archetypes is not fit for the world in which we now find ourselves.

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