Author: Christian

Leadership in America: A Debate Over “Leadership”

Leadership in America: A Debate Over "Leadership"

Analysis: When leaders refuse to leave the stage

For the past three decades, there has been a “debate” over whether “leadership” is an accurate and important term in the public policy arena. Leaders who are reluctant to relinquish the stage are being labeled as “dreadful” or “shallow.”

The debate has been fueled by four types of leaders:

1. Those who lead by virtue of having “legitimacy.”

2. Those who hold views that are not “comfortable” or congruent with the public.

3. Those who are not “humble” or “selfless” but rather possess a strong ego.

4. Those who are viewed as “invisible” or “irrelevant” by their constituencies and thus unworthy of their time and attention.

In recent years, “leadership” has become a highly charged and controversial term in the media. It has been used as a catch-all for the behavior of any and all perceived leaders.

A recent study by Gallup Poll on leadership in the US suggested that leaders can become extinct in their constituencies; indeed, they sometimes die with the cause in mind. But that same study concluded that the “presumed leadership” of one particular constituency may not be a “best practice” in the long run.

The study also revealed that those who are labeled leaders frequently become a “poster child” for the rest of their constituencies (i.e., the critics). When that happens, they can be labeled “not leadership” when they in fact are simply “not well-served leadership.”

It is difficult to discuss “leadership” with those who do not share such terms as “legitimacy,” “comfortable” or “humble.”

The debate over “leadership” has been in progress for some time. For example, see the book Leadership in America: A Half Century of Change (Gutman and Schoen 1994). Also see “Leadership, Character and the Public” (Gut

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