Why I cannot stand leaders

I just cannot stand leaders.

Simply cannot stand the very idea of leaders.


Look at them! Look how special they think they are!
Look how special we think they are.
It’s our own fault, we fetishize them.

We call them special, rare, talented, unique and essential individuals.

I’ve had it up to here with leaders.

Want to know why?

Here’s why…


That lot, the faceless adoring horde?
That’s you that is.
And me too. And anyone else dumb enough not to be a leader.


The Big Guy at the front (and it’s nearly always a guy) requires a load of seemingly faceless drones to follow him.
Cos whats a leader without followers? A weirdo, that’s who.

Luckily for self-styled leaders our organisations are hardwired to provide the faceless horde. When you join an organisation, you’re signed up straight away to a Horde


So there’s an endless supply of Horde Followers who therefore need a Leader, cos what’s a Horde without a Leader? A bunch of weirdos thats who.
Create a Horde, appoint a Leader, hey presto, an organisation!

In short, this is why I can’t stand the idea of Leaders…

Because it makes everyone else into followers.

All those blank white anonymous figures? As followers they are defined by following.
If there is a leader leading, then there are followers following.
Without leaders what are they?….

The leadership literature elevates leaders, and by extension turns everyone else into drooling simpletons, bumbling around without direction or motivation.

How rude!

There’s a compensatory sop given to acting as a catalyst, not getting in the way but acting as a Shepherd, creating the optimum environment for people, acting on the system etc.

In the systemsy gurus nobody has the balls to get rid of Leaders, Deming has his “14 points for management” and that Vanguard Method seems to work really hard at finding something for leaders to do, by changing the inside of their brains, rather than locking their offices when their backs are turned and turfing them out on the street.

Now, I’m no management guru , which is just as well, but I reckon trying to find better things for a bunch of rich dudes to do isn’t tackling the root cause of the problem.
If the root cause of business problems is command and control thinking, and it very nearly always is, then the heads that hold that thinking are too. They’re system conditions that work against purpose but personified.

Systemsy methods are directed at trying to get leaders to learn and change their minds about work, and in the main it seems they’re not that interested. They’re like the class dullard, creating a noise in class, occupying the teachers time and attention so the rest of the class is dragged down with them. That’s a METAPHOR by the way.

Everybody else, customers, staff and wider society is dragged down by the very fact of Leaders existence.

There’s lots of things I’ve read about creating curiosity and getting leaders into the work, the ultimate purpose of it all to change management thinking. But God I’m bored with leaders.
Bored, bored, bored, bored bored.

Leaders, you’re boring. The lot of you.

This entry was posted in command and control, knowledge, leadership, systems thinking, vanguard method and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Why I cannot stand leaders

  1. Frank Wood says:

    The obvious question is – so what you going to put in their place? Anarchy? No one willing to take the buck? Blah blah.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Me? What am I going to put in their place? I’m not going to be doing anything surely?! Like I say, I’m no management guru. Leaders are boring and useless though, that fact remains regardless of my skill or will in this area.


      • Frank Wood says:

        Well all you’re doing then is ranting.

        However there are leaders who are invisible and much of the time it’s those people that get things done.

        As (I think) Roosevelt said: “If you want to get something done, let someone else think it was their idea.”


        • ThinkPurpose says:

          No BLOGGING, I think you’ll find I’m blogging. Typing and pressing “send”, that is.
          I don’t have a hard on for leaders. SEEN THROUGH ‘EM. Call that ranting if you will.


        • Charles Beauregard says:

          I, for one, enjoy reading a good rant. If I’m looking for leadership about the alternative to leadership I’d firstly be overwhelmed by my own irony and secondly wouldn’t expect to find it in a blog post.

          I may be wrong, but to me this blog post to me is more about the cult of leadership than leadership itself.

          To add to the subject of this post, this article from Peter Senge is worth a read: http://spcpress.com/pdf/other/Senge.pdf; as is this one from Margaret Wheatley: http://margaretwheatley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Leadership-in-Age-of-Complexity.pdf

          I wouldn’t pretend to have heavily researched the alternatives in any depth, but ideas around not having leaders have existed for a while – participative democracy has been around since ancient Greece and was more recently part of how the Occupy Movement worked.

          Holocracy is a more recent term. I’m not convinced yet, and in my view tends to work in new companies that from the beginning decide to do away with traditional structures of leadership.

          For those of use trying to bring about change in traditional organisations it looks like we’re stuck with the cult of leadership and the structures that come out from them, whether we like it or not. For the time being, if we don’t work with those leaders and get their co-operation then real change simply won’t happen.


          • Frank Wood says:

            Participative Democracy? Hmmm. St Lukes Advertising tried that and it was a disaster. A documentary was made about it and it was sad and yet funny at the same time.

            Ranting is fine (I do it a lot) but if it’s not backed up by ideas or something then it’s a bit self indulgent. Maybe ranting is a part of the blogosphere but it all seems a bit me me lol.

            The good news is that there are leaders who lead but they are invisible. Maybe they are the most effective sort of leaders?


  2. Sparky says:

    Came across this quote today. “Stories of success and failure consistently exaggerate the impact of leadership style and management practices on firm outcomes, and thus their message is rarely useful.” Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow


  3. giantknave says:

    I really like your last picture, of “some dudes, hanging”. 🙂


  4. GeeCee says:

    I’ve always wondered why Leaders of Councils are called Leaders…they might lead their party but not the whole council!


  5. Dambot says:

    I’m with you, Mr Onions, waste of space. Leadership = institutionalised egomania.


  6. Dambot says:

    …and replace them with a packet of biscuits to motivate me to come into work. They’d all be on a course anyhow.


  7. There seems to be a difference between self-proclaimed / management promoted leaders versus those who really have leadership capabilities.
    It is not because someone said they were leaders that they truly are/become such a thing.
    For me, rarely do the true leaders ever think of themselves that way.
    And in the end, those who do just follow, do it because they chose to, everyone has decision making capabilities, they use them however they want, right?
    People who merely follow are more boring than those who actively share their opinion and actually do something about whatever they think needs to be improved.
    Thanks for the post though!


  8. Dambot says:

    And now with added research

    Click to access 343.pdf


  9. Gary Varga says:

    Leadership is an action, maybe a role but not a position.


  10. I feel where i work, everytime we have a problem, we get NEW leaders in. Soon we will all be reds, and very few adoring whites left at all…


  11. titus groan says:

    If one took a Taoist approach, one wouldn’t recognise the leader leading you or that one was being lead. Surely that is the best approach to take towards leadership.


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