By the time it takes you to hit the back button from this article because you accidentally clicked the link, the Leadership training industry would have made $8,244. That is because businesses, executives, HR and mid-level managers are all willing, hungry and flush with cash. They are willing to spend, nay invest as the leadership development consultants would want us to think, in training, books, bootcamps and more, to be seen as better leaders. Leadership development is a $130 billion a year industry. Now you know the math on $8,244
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Business School Professor and known for evidence based management, tells us the futility of the innumerable management books and and the so called inspirational training methods we are exposed to.
“To build a science of leadership, you need reliable data. To learn from others’ success, you need to know what those others did. The best learning, simply put, comes from accurate and comprehensive data, either qualitative or quantitative. But the leadership business is filled with fables. In autobiographical or semiautobiographical works and speeches, in the cases and authorized biographies leaders help bring into existence, and in their prescriptions for leadership, leaders describe what they want to believe about themselves and the world and, more importantly and strategically, what they would like others to believe about them.”
To see what Pfeffer is saying on books that lack data and filled with fables here are some simplistic leadership development books that make it sound like leadership is as easy as counting, you might even have them on your desk:
- The New One Minute Manager (yes there is an old one)
- The Two Minute Leader
- Three Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career Standing Out as a Leader
- The Four Principles of Value Based Leadership
- Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (exactly that, a fable)
There likely are books with 6,7,8 etc in their titles, you get the picture.
If you are looking for a far better book on leadership that is data driven and devoid of simplistic recipes, start with Pfeiffer’s new book, Leadership BS.
If you have not read any of the 1,2,3,4,5 books consider yourself luck. If you read them by choice, it behooves you to read Pfeiffer’s book as well. If you read them because you were asked to, get some evidence based talking points from Pfeiffer’s book (not that it would matter but at lease you are armed).
Ask where is the data when you hear a leadership fable!