Are our open plan offices so bursting with innovation and discovery that we need every other line manager to attend leadership courses to equip them with the unique skills needed to inspire their timid and feckless workers towards uncharted spreadsheets?
‘We need leadership’.
May as well say to the aspiring leaders ‘These people over here aren’t going to do what we want them to do without someone qualified to direct them.'
May as well say to the workers ‘Wait right there and someone will be along shortly to tell you what to do.’
So people who may have run a business, buried a parent, given birth, passed exams, travelled the world, owned investment properties, survived cancer, chaired committees, fought bushfires, built a house, played the saxophone, spoken three languages, served on a jury, run a marathon, migrated from overseas, coached a sporting team, choreographed a musical, run a household...
Suddenly need to be led.
Perhaps our obsession with demanding leadership just ends up producing followers. Call a man a leader and you compel him to have followers. Supply and demand.
The leaders remain mediocre at best (because Leadership is hard and requires practice in situations that demand Leadership, not management) and the workers become skilled at waiting to be told what to do. Why not? May as well play the game. Let these 'leaders' earn their salaries and we can conserve our initiative and energy for the areas of our lives where we have to 'lead' - running a household or caring for an elderly parent or planning a holiday or searching for a new job.
So our leaders nurture disengaged workers. Which results in increased demand for leadership training to motivate them.
(Full disclosure: People pay me to deliver leadership training.)
Perhaps we should spend more leadership training time and money on less sparkly things.
Like defining the Widget. Writing accurate job descriptions. Drafting honest recruitment ads. Conducting better employment interviews. Writing simpler contracts. Running practical orientation. Building better workspaces. Making good decisions. Having authentic conversations. Doing what we said we'd do.
'Most organisations herd racehorses and race sheep.'