Magazine article Management Today

VITAL SIGNS: Lost Leaders

Magazine article Management Today

VITAL SIGNS: Lost Leaders

Article excerpt

I don't think I've ever seen such a glut of management and leadership books on the market as there are at the moment. Whatever management malaise ails you, there's almost certainly a solution - probably written by an American guru and with a super-efficient, no messing title - The Fast Thinking Manager's Manual, How to be an Even Better Manager, Management Secrets of the Rich and Famous.

What a lovely future, for example, is promised by The Fifth Discipline, one of those management books that says competitive advantage will be all about becoming a learning organisation. Published in 1990, it's been hugely influential; a little New Age all by itself. The Leadership Challenge by James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner in 1995 - positioned just right for the boom, with a foreword by Tom Peters and a dynamic middle Z - was even more inspirational. It quoted a large chunk of Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech and offered a communication analysis showing how business leaders could become as compelling as King himself.

There's a raft of management styles waiting there for you to bone up on. Just in case you've been distracted from reading management books for a wee while, by, say pressure of work, the '90s consensus was that leadership was about learning, transparency, empowerment. Emotional Intelligence in the workplace was the way forward, along with harnessing the innate wonderfulness of everyone in the organisation. A complete change from the archaic 'command and control' leadership styles of pre-history.

Meanwhile, I've just read the summary of an Institute of Management survey that says that only 1% of the junior managers it polled felt confidence in their leadership.

Some mistake here, surely. If leaders are buying these enriching style primers by the thousand, then we should be in for an altogether more inspirational time. At the very least, managers should have developed identifiable management styles - rather like the leadership personality types identified in so many of these books. One could stick Post-it notes on their ever-open office doors: Charismatic/ Inspirational; Learning/ Empowering; Archaic Autocrat. But what do you call the slash-and-burn cost-cutters of the early '90s, or the indecisive control freaks who hang on self-constructed empires long after they're viable? …

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