I’m back fretting about this issue of leadership again given some of the research that we’ve done recently. You might have noticed from the most recent research that lots of people pick ‘Management’ as the thing they like least about their job.
At the same time, less than 1% say that ‘Management’ is what they like most. Maybe leadership is like politics. We’re rarely inspired by good leaders but easily fed up with incompetent ones.
If political leadership is OK, then people put up with it and it’s hard for the opposing party to beat them in an election. The incumbent doesn’t have to be great, just OK. On the other hand, if the incumbent is bad, they can easily be beaten.
This gives rise to the adage, elections are lost, they’re not won.
Same thing with products or services you buy. You stick with them if they’re OK and it’s really hard to unseat a supplier with a ‘Great’ competitive product. But you will switch if you start to have problems.
Maybe it’s the same for leaders. You don’t have to be great to get what you want done, you just can’t suck. People disengage from lousy leaders but there isn’t much engagement difference between an OK leader and a great leader.
Should the purpose of all leadership training then be just to make sure leaders don’t suck at it? That’s a much simpler challenge than trying to turn out great leaders.
Perhaps all we really need is leaders that don’t suck.