Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Rise of the Self-Serving Leader

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Rise of the Self-Serving Leader

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

If it weren't so infuriatingly destructive, how delicious might the irony seem? Just as chief executives and directors of our largest public and private sector enterprises trot out new reasons for ramping up their remuneration and fee packages, so we learn that the leadership capabilities for which they so generously reward themselves are make-believe.

The honest among them probably know that. For the self-delusional, the revelations of American leadership expert Barbara Kellerman as revealed in her latest book, The End of Leadership, may come as something of a surprise. For those of us forced to grin and bear the boardroom bunkum about market comparability and so on, it's yet more evidence of a transformational swell that threatens to overturn existing organisational and political leadership models.

Reflect momentarily on New Zealand's shortage of leaders, particularly business and political. Sure some individuals, like our richest man Graeme Hart, make heaps of money but that particular capability does not necessarily, or even often, equate with either desirable or inspirational leadership. Exploitive or opportunistic perhaps? No, as James S Rosebush, a former advisor to US president Ronald Reagan and now a leadership writer and author, said recently: "... we are experiencing a dearth of leadership in society".

Kellerman argues that followers no longer believe in their leaders, and with good reason. The way in which an increasing number of organisational leaders reward themselves or are rewarded by their director cohort, does little to ameliorate feelings of discontent and disillusionment. And the disparity in reward between leader and led is the first and most compelling step toward undermining leadership authenticity.

There is a growing disconnect between what leaders "earn" and what they think they are entitled to. No argument, genuine leadership is hard, demanding work. But it is not all about the individual. Leaders who believe they "deserve" their unfair and unreasonable remuneration because they are somehow special aren't very special at all.

The reward processes now adopted by many boards and their recruitment consultants run counter to the principles of motivational leadership. …

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