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The State of Leadership

September 4, 2013

Leadership today is in crisis, for the reasons explained in the previous posts. Virtually every hierarchical organization has serious integrity problems—not honoring their word, not following their founders’ teaching, ignoring their stated purposes and principles, and not delivering what they promised. Many Leaders are subject to ethical scandals, and more probably would be in trouble if the facts were known. Leaders misuse organizational power and influence for personal gain. And sadly, in many circles this sorry state of affairs is considered normal.

Leadership and integrity problems are not restricted to the political and religious domain; they have become a global feature on every level of society.

Most intelligent people we encounter believe that the world faces a general leadership crisis. Managerial incompetence is epidemic; estimates range from 30–75%. 65–75% of employees report that their immediate boss is the worst aspect of their current employment. The failure rate among senior executives is >50%.

Need we even mention the well-known abysmal track record of politicians’ promises?

What about improved leadership training? MBA programs have been graduating record numbers of so-called ‘business leaders’, but that effort has not reduced the embarrassing failure rate or the ethical problems behind it. The problem is that the academics do not understand what Leader and Leadership are.

A cliché of the academic literature on leadership is that a uniform definition of Leader and Leadership is lacking. Without a stable, accurate definition of Leadership, the academics do not know what they are studying, and the leaders they train do not know what they are doing. A term without a definition is meaningless, useless for study and especially for application.

How can we define Leader and Leadership properly, so that we can study them and apply what we learn? The definitions in the existing literature define Leader and Leadership inadequately. Most academic research on leadership emphasizes the peripheral aspects and content of Leader and Leadership. Almost none of it aims at understanding the ontological aspect of leadership—the structure, dynamics and essential nature of what leadership is.

If leadership research has ignored the essential nature of leadership, it should not surprise anyone that it is difficult to ascertain or define what Leading by Being is. If we don’t really know what Leadership in general is, then how can we even recognize an Authentic Leader—what to speak of studying or becoming one?

Thus it is crucial that Leadership participants and researchers de-emphasize the peripheral aspects and the content of leadership, and concentrate on understanding its essential nature. There is no possibility of framing a new paradigm of Leadership for the 21st century if we cannot even define what we are studying and practicing.

The aim of this series is to articulate a useful standard definition of Leader and Leadership based on an ontological model derived from the teaching of the Buddha. Many people have now understood the benefits of Mindfulness in all kinds of applications; now let us explore deeper aspects of Being and Becoming revealed by the Buddha and their relevance to Leader and Leadership.

From → Leading by Being

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