Leadership is dead. At least this is true in any formal government, military, or corporate organization of more than a dozen people, though I doubt that it still exists even in smaller organizations. I reach this conclusion after consistent observation of the following over the last several years:
- Everyone wants to be in charge, but no one wants to take charge.
- While every “boss” knows that he/she/it is only as good as the people working for him/her/it, it is difficult to find examples of serious credit for success being placed anywhere but at the top, whereas blame for failure always moves in the opposite direction (reference the CBS News scandal over President Bush’s national guard service, the trials of the Abu Ghraib prison guards, or, for one of history’s most extreme examples, Josef Stalin’s purge of the Red Army following Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union).
- Communication is even more difficult or more terrifying a prospect than leadership as far as most “bosses” are concerned.
- Scott Adams’ assertion in the “The Dilbert Principle” notwithstanding, the Peter Principle is very much alive and thriving. If George W. Bush in the White House is not convincing enough, witness Condoleeza Rice’s appointment to the position of Secretary of State or, more recently, Paul Wolfowitz’s nomination to head the World Bank.
- Nepotism is an unwritten core value for most firms of over 15 people. When your colleague in the next office loses a half-million-dollar contract, oversees development of a product that destroys a client’s network infrastructure, sexually harasses two people to the point where they resign from the firm, arrives every day at ten, takes a two-hour lunch break at noon, and leaves at two-thirty with Daddy, you know why that person is still employed.
- Truth must be avoided at all costs. If the project manager/boss/client asks you for your perspective on potential issues with a project, smile sweetly and say “Issues? Are you kidding? Would you have hired us if you thought there could possibly be issues?” Stating the truth will only get you fired (if you’re lucky), and the firm will just find some other sucker to take the fall when everything implodes (which it eventually will).