The End of Leadership

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One of our foremost leadership experts dismantles obsolete assumptions and stimulates a new conversation about leadership in the twenty-first century.

Becoming a leader has become a mantra. The explosive growth of the "leadership industry" is based on the belief that leading is a path to power and money, a medium for achievement, and a mechanism for creating change. But there are other, parallel truths: that leaders of every stripe are in disrepute; that the tireless and often ...

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The End of Leadership

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One of our foremost leadership experts dismantles obsolete assumptions and stimulates a new conversation about leadership in the twenty-first century.

Becoming a leader has become a mantra. The explosive growth of the "leadership industry" is based on the belief that leading is a path to power and money, a medium for achievement, and a mechanism for creating change. But there are other, parallel truths: that leaders of every stripe are in disrepute; that the tireless and often superficial teaching of leadership has brought us no closer to nirvana; and that followers nearly everywhere have become, on the one hand, disappointed and disillusioned, and, on the other, entitled and emboldened.

The End of Leadership tells two tales. The first is about change—about how and why leadership and followership have changed over time, especially in the last forty years. As a result of cultural evolution and technological revolution, the balance of power between leaders and followers has shifted—with leaders becoming weaker and followers stronger.

The second narrative is about the leadership industry itself. In this provocative and critical volume, Barbara Kellerman raises questions about leadership as both a scholarly pursuit and a set of practical skills: Does the industry do what it claims to do—grow leaders? Does the research justify the undertaking? Do we adequately measure the results of our efforts? Are leaders as all-important as we think they are? What about followers? Isn't teaching good followership as important now as teaching good leadership? Finally, Kellerman asks: Given the precipitous decline of leaders in the estimation of their followers, are there alternatives to the existing models—ways of teaching leadership that take into account the vicissitudes of the twenty-first century?

The End of Leadership takes on all these questions and then some—making it necessary reading for business, political, and community leaders alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
According to Kellerman (Bad Leadership), lecturer in public leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the “leadership industry” (her term for purported “schools of leadership” run by governments, educational institutions, and private businesses) continues to flourish, but with no apparent increase in the quality or quantity of leadership. In a response that seems geared toward her industry colleagues, Kellerman argues that the leadership industry must make four changes: end “leader-centrism”; transcend the situational specifics that lead to myopia; subject itself to critical analysis; and change with changing times. This vague prescription concludes 200 pages that detail the increasing loss of centralized power in governments, business, and institutions and the corresponding decline in people’s respect for and deference to leaders. The author argues that power has shifted from leaders to followers, and social media and the information age require more transparency and accountability from leaders. Kellerman also questions whether leadership can be taught, and, if so, whether corporate “leadership training” is what Plato or Machiavelli had in mind when envisioning the “Philosopher King” or “The Prince.” What type of leader the modern age requires is an interesting question that Kellerman flirts with, but never directly addresses, almost as if the book itself were subject to the directionless malaise it describes. (Apr.)
Jeffrey Pfeffer
“In this wide-ranging critique, Kellerman enumerates the numerous contradictions, inconsistencies, and irrelevance of what passes for leadership thought and training today. Before you purchase or attend any of what the multi-billion dollar leadership industry is selling, read this book!”
Robert Kegan
“Barbara Kellerman does not play nicely with the other boys and girls-and we are all the better for it. Anyone interested in a penetrating critique of the leadership industry should read this provocative new book from our foremost leadership contrarian.”
Deborah Rhode
“In this compelling book, Kellerman brings critical new insights to longstanding questions about the importance of leaders….essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of leadership both in theory and practice.”
Joseph S. Nye
“After pioneering work on followership and bad leadership, now Kellerman provocatively dissects what she calls the leadership industry. She offers suggestions on how to think far bigger and more expansively if we are to cope with leading in a global information age.”
Rob Goffee
“A timely, considered and comprehensive examination of how leadership has changed and how and why we lost faith in leaders; how the leadership industry went wrong - and the steps needed to put it right”
Warren Bennis
“‘Mind the Gap’ could be the subtitle of Kellerman’s disturbingly honest and indispensable book. The ‘gap’ Kellerman urges us to mind is the hoary disconnect between what the leadership industry produces about best practices and what leaders who read our books actually practice.”
Choice Reviews Online
A well-written chronicle of the evolution and devolution of the leadership profession and a substantiated indictment of the leadership development industry.Essential.
Kirkus Reviews
A highly critical assessment of the state of American leadership and the "leadership industry" that helps produce it. After 30 years in the leadership-training field, Kellerman (Public Leadership/Harvard Univ.; Leadership: Essential Selections on Power Authority, and Influence, 2010, etc.) writes, "we don't know if learning how to lead wisely and well can be taught." Yet the $50-billion leadership industry has exploded in recent decades and become "self-satisfied, self-perpetuating, and poorly policed," while producing scant evidence of success. Instead, many business and government leaders "seem inept or corrupt" and either unable or unwilling to lead. In this valuable book, she details vast societal changes that have demeaned and downgraded leaders and altered the relationship between leaders and followers. The Internet and other advances in communication technology brought more information, encouraged greater self-expression and expanded connection. With information available instantly to everyone, followers (citizens, employees, stockholders) learned of their leaders' faults and began questioning their authority. Information about priestly abuse, for example, has led to diminution in the Catholic Church's institutional power, and news of business scandals has prompted distrust of corporate leaders. At the same time, followers are demanding more, emboldened by the spread of democracy, the rhetoric of empowerment and the practice of participation. To keep pace with a networked, interdependent and transnational world in which leaders are weaker and followers stronger, the leadership industry must overcome its myopia, analyze itself critically and catch up with a rapidly changing society. Kellerman's honest and astute critique makes it clear that the gurus in her own field have work to do if they want to remain relevant.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062069160
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/3/2012
  • Pages: 233
  • Sales rank: 578,823
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was the founding executive director of the Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership and served as its research director. She was ranked by among the Top 50 Business Thinkers in 2009 and by Leadership Excellence in the top 15 of the 100 "best minds on leadership" in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 she was given the Wilbur M. McFeeley Award for her pioneering work on leadership and followership. She is author and editor of many books, including, most recently, Bad Leadership, Followership, and Leadership: Essential Selections on Power, Authority, and Influence.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Twenty-First-Century Leadership-and Followership xiii

Part I Power Shift

1 Historical Trajectory-lessening power 3

2 Cultural Constraints-leveling the playing field 25

3 Technological Imperatives-losing control 45

Part II Shifting Sands

4 Social Contact-undermining the understanding 69

5 American Experience-downgrading leaders 97

6 Worldwide Momentum-upgrading followers 125

Part III Paradigm Shift

7 Leadership Industry-leading as mantra 153

8 Leadership Complete-leading in time 177

Notes 201

Index 221

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Customer Reviews

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