Friday, February 15, 2008

More on leadership 'lessons'

I had a post earlier in which I expressed scepticism about leadership courses and training sessions. By a curious coincidence, I came across a reference to this subject in HBS professor Rakesh Khurana's recent book, From higher aims to hired hands, a lengthy polemic about how b-schools have changed from aspiring to provide professional education to becoming recruitment agencies for companies.

Khurana notes that somewhere along the line b-schools changed their objective from producing managers to producing leaders. He thinks the latter is a spurious or delusory objective because the entire literature on leadership fails to shed light on what precisely are the ingredients of leadership or how these can be acquired:

Despite tens of thousands of studies and writings on leadership since the days of the Ohio State Leadership Studies, several scholarly reviews of the literature on leadership have found little progress in the field since Chester Barnard observed in the 1930s that leadership in general, and particularly the "Great Man" view of the topic popular in his day, was "the subject of an extraordinary amount of dogmatically stated nonsense".

For example, Ralph Stodgill in 1974 and Bernard Bass in an independent study conducated in 1981, exained more than 4,700 separate studies of leadership and found little ni the way of a conceptual framework or frameworks in this field. Stodgill stated that an "endless accumulation of empirical data has not produced an integrated understanding of leadership" Bernard Bass found a surprising lack of clarity for a subject that was supposedly being examined in a scholarly manner, noting that most studies failed to even define the terms leader and leadership.


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Anonymous said...

well, b-school has to produce what society wants, and there are just too many professional managers but not enough leaders to spread around.
i guess the idea is that having pseudo leaders is better than having no leader.

from the red dot