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Real people

The purpose of this current discussion is to identify the key and fundamental problems with the notion of individual leadership in modern organizations as it is professed and propounded by the modern leadership movement (MLM); to outline the case against this misguided concept. Many of these have been addressed to one extent or another, as well, in other discussions on these pages.

But today’s subject is one that belongs firmly in our current topic. It is easily among the most astoundingly ill-conceived, and even dangerous, of the many bafflingly preposterous claims made by the MLM.

It is that you can and must abandon who you’ve been, and change your personality into the “leadership” persona.

Think you can do that?

You are, after all, the sum of the immensely complex and interacting admixture of your upbringing, experiences, relationships, and multi-faceted contemplations, not to mention the never-ending self-assessments arising from all of these.

Do you really believe that you can simply read a book or attend a seminar, and suddenly realize you’ve missed the point all these years? Never mind that, as we have seen, there is no such thing as a (non-pathological, or inherently constructive) leadership personality, nor a magical leadership ingredient, or character trait, that will transform you willy-nilly into such an unfortunate creature. For our purposes here, suspend that inconvenient truth for just a moment.

Do you really think all you need to do is to find your inner child, think outside the box, or even enter into a brand-new journey of self-discovery? Now? After all these years?

Can you really wrench yourself out of the path (not the rut) that leads to the “you” you are today? Should you?

You realize that this path isn’t static. With each step you trod along it, you established perspectives, insights, experiences on the bases of which you developed habits and decision-making patterns.

Consequently, the junction where you find yourself today isn’t a simple intersection, divorced in time and space from your past or your future. It is not a place where you abandon one and enter, essentially reborn, into another. You cannot simply turn left or right entirely independently of what has gone before, or of where it is propelling you.

For you do not stop and contemplate the panorama of choices before you here; you add and modify, grow and mature. become better or worse, step by step, adding definition and meaning to not merely the path that brought you here, but to the very momentum that bears you along it, which momentum is also the “you” presently pondering the diversity and realism of these alternatives even as they rush by.

Think you can wrench yourself out of that into some superficial, wide-eyed, “you can do it!” personality prescription written by the latest “researcher” or “scientist” who rolls into town, promising to cure whatever ails you as a leader? The idea that you can taps in to a long and distinctly American sense of self-sovereignty and control. It is powerful and seductive, and it continuously lures millions of us into its ambit.

Unfortunately, the foundation for this one (as for many others) is false. But even if it were real, to attempt to re-write the whole script of your life, your meaning, your core self, would be at best ill-advised, and possibly quite wrenching indeed into the bargain.

And we will point out just one example of why and how in our next installment. Thank you for staying with us!

If you have enjoyed this post, please do join us by using the subscription links just below or at the top right of this page. And thanks – we look forward to your being aboard!

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  1. E. wrote:

    Take all the time you need Jim to prepare for posts like this. Fantastic and powerful thought. But we always want more. Best to you and yours. E.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink
  2. steve Werner wrote:

    Some very good insight into the unrealistic assumptions that leadership can be taught in a classroom or leadership just appears.

    No disrespect to the academicians but unless you’ve built you’re way through the ranks or experienced failure and success, you are not ready to lead.

    nice blog


    Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  3. Jim Stroup wrote:

    As always, E, thanks for your kind support – not to mention your always essential and eye-opening contributions on your site!

    Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  4. Jim Stroup wrote:

    Hello Steve,

    Thanks for stopping by with these comments – well said!

    Congratulations as well on your own fine site – looking forward to more of your writing.

    Sunday, October 23, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink
  5. Steven wrote:

    Really enjoyed this post, thanks Jim.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Reminds me of the “are leaders born or made?” argument – some people believe that a certain type of person definitely can or cannot be a leader, or that partaking in a course or some training will absolutely guarantee a person’s success.

    At the end of the day, what it comes down to is hard work, determination and a lot of trial & error and learning. Constant, continual improvement.

    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  6. Jim Stroup wrote:

    Thanks, Steven, for your visit, kind comments, and your own work!

    Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

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