It’s a sign of the time when leaders in some organisations earn over a thousand times more than the median company salary. Are they really that good? Or is the upper limit of employee value contribution limited by the focus on having most people in the organisation operating as process monkeys, slavishly adhering to the operations manual?
In the public sector part of the core skillset appears to be avoiding getting caught. In the unlikely event that you are caught, the key skill is to brazen it out and hope that the public grows bored of hearing about it or gets distracted by media chaff countermeasures.
Thus many modern leaders seem to be focused on self-interest, rather than some greater sense of purpose or even to adhering to a moral code.
So role models are more the exception than the rule. And even the good leaders are really masters of administering a factory, which kind of worked for the last three hundred years. Unless of course you were an employee. The world is too disrupted for the steady state factory model, loved by both the public and private sector, to be effective. Thus we have very few inspiring and effective role models.
The problem is compounded by Covid. Many young people have lost two years of social development. This will be costly for the individuals and society. The implications will be felt in due course. It will require direct intervention to attenuate the damage.
Less is more?
Older people would have been happy to attend a three-day residential negotiation course. Younger people are asking their learning function if there is something available that is closer to 10 minutes. This reductionist, ‘give me the list of 10 things to do’, perhaps overlooks the nuanced application of the list. The increase in addictive, dopamine generating content has created hyper-stimulated individuals who will lose interest if there isn’t a scene change or an explosion every 30 seconds. Our brains are not wired for TikTok level intensity.
The pressure young people are under, thanks to social media, means that that bucket lists are no longer the preserve of the old. Consequently young people are tick boxing and selfie-ing their way through life. This might well result in a somewhat narcissistic individual who is too busy keeping up with their ‘friends’ on social media to consider the feelings of those who are more physically proximate. Thus confusion, loneliness and sadness become the background track to their lives.
The increase in mental unwellness suggests that this is well underway.
Today MBA and exec education tends to major on how to administer a factory. Sadly this is a skillset for more innocent times. Some of the providers recognise this, so across their legacy syllabus they lavishly sprinkle buzzwords such as disruption, IoT, lean startup. This approach is akin to creating flavoursome sauces to mask the smell of the rotten meat.
The generally low success rate when it comes to digital transformation suggests that something is not well understood by the MBA faculties. With decades invested in Taylorism, it is nigh on impossible to migrate a system-centric syllabus to one that is people / innovation-centric.
Thus we have leaders who are so preoccupied by their strategic plan that they do not see the fast approaching iceberg. But perhaps there is a growing body of leaders who see the iceberg as a selfie opportunity and so the organisational mission is to get it in shot?
Leadership is in crisis. But the exec education sector continues to milk the factory cash cow. It is pretty well understood by the students that in purchasing an MBA you are not buying anything special by way of content. You are buying a network. They might find that the skills they acquire on a three-day, residential, interpersonal skills course a better investment if their goal is to simply acquire some friends with benefits.
Leadership needs a reset.