Rise and Fall of Leadership

May 22, 2014 • LEADERSHIP, Leadership Development

By Guido Stein

Few concepts have received such widespread attention over the last two decades as that of leadership. Below, Guido Stein discusses the complicated balance between leadership and results, and considers the qualities that make a great leader.

“Orders will not take the place of training”

MaryParker Follet, 1925

An Appealing Topic

Few concepts have received such widespread attention over the last two decades as that of leadership. A search for “leadership” in the world’s largest online bookstore finds over one hundred thousand titles. And that does not include the many works that cover the same subject matter without using precisely that term, such as the many classical works on ethical and political excellence, for example.

When I ask the participants in my programs at IESE Business School of the University of Navarra why this should be, they come up with a wide range of possible reasons, such as: it’s not clear what is meant by leadership, there are as many theories as there are authors, that it’s all hot air, that it’s a fad, that it’s easy to write about, that it’s a sure way of making money, and so on. The holders of these opinions are unanimously critical of the leadership literature, which they regard as unscientific and either esoteric or else superficial and unsubstantial, if not banal.

On the other hand, quite a few think that leadership is important for individuals, organisations, countries and families; that there are many different ways of looking at it; that it can decisively affect a person’s career; that it is difficult to capture in a theory that is both comprehensive and practical at the same time; and that it is a multi-faceted phenomenon which in some respects is constantly changing, yet in other respects is always the same.

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