The Lie of Most Leadership Books

In an article with the above title, published on CBS MoneyWatch, Dave Logan outlines the confusing platform set by most leadership books. The three most problematic leadership books, according to Logan, are religious leadership and self help leadership books. Logan’s main claim is that “leadership, like most fields, is made richer by people bringing their life lessons from religion, self-help, personal transformation…” but that when those messages color business-savvy thinking with” inspiration” we lose the meaning of business related leadership to a non-related attempt at creating irrelevant analogies.

I agree with Logan’s conclusions to a great degree. That said, we need to understand leadership is still insufficiently defined because not enough has been known over the years about the people element. To define leadership we need to understand how to teach it to those who don’t have it. Until recently this has been a task no one knew how to achieve. Since there was no answer to give to those who didn’t get people to follow them, authors started focusing on two things: description and inspiration.

Description seems to be for those who appreciate data, like Logan himself. The author goes out and studies leadership when it does work, or the expectations employees have from leaders etc. There are several brilliant books outlining what leadership is when it’s already working. The problem is, those books don’t outline how to get there if people in leadership positions in your organization are not “leaders.”

Inspiration seems to work well for those who deeply want to change and see better results for them and others, thinking that if they just tried harder… Unfortunately, both the description of what should be and the inspiration of what can be are not enough, and it isn’t a bad thing that they exist. They are there to answer a very important need in the best way they can. Science is certainly making great progress – and there is a lot to say about leadership – but until we can teach those who don’t lead to lead, I vote we keep both the descriptions and the inspiration. At the end of the day, descriptions will tell us what we need to strive for; inspiration will give some of us the ability to initiate action, and the missing link (the things we already know and will come to know ¬†about the brain) will equip us to get there.

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