Michael J. Kerrigan

Leadership Industry

Scanning the daily news confirms widespread pessimism that we are suffering from a crisis of confidence in those who are charged with leading our nation’s political, business and cultural institutions. Levels of trust in our leaders are at an all time low perhaps because many of today’s leaders may place self-interest ahead of the public interest.

In studying character development I have discovered leadership development has much the same aims. Leadership development implies developing good leaders that are both ethical and effective. I agree with the view that leadership is judged on only two criteria: ethics and effectiveness. Perhaps character development should be judged in a similar fashion?

I have sadly concluded that after 30 plus years of lobbying in Washington D.C., many Members adhere to Machiavelli’s The Prince, one of the more famous books on politics and leadership. In my view, the influence of leaders has been diminished… Continue reading

The last several posts have focused on the Leadership Industry. Readers questioned me why I call leadership an industry.

My response is first: the International Journal of Leadership Studies states $50 Billion is spent annually just on corporate training and development; and secondly, a Google search of leadership books returns more than 84 million results and thirdly, there are countless leadership centers, institutes, programs, courses, seminars, workshops, experiences, trainers, books, blogs, articles, websites, webinars, videos, conferences, consultants and coaches teaching people how to lead.

Next post will address the field of leadership scholarship.

As a Washington lobbyist I was in the advice business for 32 years. Often I counseled my clients that one can better understand the actions of Members of Congress knowing they are acting on the basis of their own self-interest, i.e. getting re-elected.

In the past, I have noted that it was the Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith who best articulated the principle of self-interest. In politics as well as economics, both systems are designed on this normative principle.

Yet in studying the large leadership industry with an almost limitless number of books, articles, speeches, workshops, blogs, conferences storytelling, training sessions are filled with good intentions, inspirational stories, fables and myths. It is my observation, much of the leadership industry seems to emphasize feel good leadership over evidence-based science.

The Machiavelli school of politics as taught in The Prince, describe politics as an arena where following virtue often leads… Continue reading

On May 31s post, Cassandra’s in the Dock, I noted, “It takes a particular type of leader to behave way Lincoln did. May we cultivate and train leaders who exhibit responsibility.” Readers then invited me to address other of Lincoln’s leadership traits.

In addition to taking “responsibility” for his actions, Lincoln exhibited rare “judgment” during a presidency dominated by the Civil War. Lincoln went to formal school only sporadically but was a determined reader who pored over the family Bible and also borrowed whatever books he could, continuing his self-taught education well into his adulthood.

Scholars might ask, what criteria do I have to offer in measuring Lincoln’s judgment as a leader? Rather than focusing on the normative as much of the leadership industry does, I suggest we measure leaders by what they actually said and did. A good start in measuring Lincoln’s judgment would be by reading… Continue reading

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