Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Too Many Leaders

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Too Many Leaders

Article excerpt

Everybody, it seems, wants leaders. But Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, cautions that organizations, colleges, and society writ large actually need more followers.

College admission officers routinely field applicants who have worked hard to assemble as many leadership positions as they reasonably can while still maintaining a sound academic record. "So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It's no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school," Cain observed.

Her worry is that this "outsize glorification of leadership" tends to attracts "those motivated by the spotlight rather than by the ideas and people they serve."

Cain points to the work of Robert Kelley, who defined "followership" in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article: Good followers are committed to "a purpose, principle, or person outside themselves" and are "courageous, honest, and credible. …

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