This suggests that the leadership industry, which encompasses countless courses, seminars, workshops, programs, experts, instructors, coaches, and consultants, should be playing a larger role in combating bad leadership. But to do that, it would have to be less fixated on developing good leaders, and more focused on how to stop or at least slow bad ones. Such a shift in focus is worth the effort, especially because there is little or no hard evidence to suggest that since its inception, the industry has spawned leaders in business and government who are manifestly superior to their predecessors. Those in the business of leadership education and development could, for example, include in their curricula important works from disciplines such as history, philosophy, and psychology. Books like Kershaw’s are instructive and insightful in their specifics, as well as more generally, for what they can tell us about patterns of dominance and deference and the nature of the human condition.
- Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author and editor of many leadership books, including, most recently, The End of Leadership (HarperBusiness, 2012).