The leadership industrial complex is setting up academic leaders to fail

We are in the midst of an academic leadership crisis. Recent high-profile resignations, including those of the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, should be due to genuine failures of leadership, but these leaders have been accused of leadership failures promoted by figures they themselves admire. Business schools that may have been set up to fail by certain ideas.

Business schools, which know a thing or two about making big bucks, have turned leadership into a veritable industrial complex by selling a misleadingly irresistible concept of leadership. Either choose the right course or hire the right executive coach.

This business model ignores the essential differences in personality, personality, charisma, and even pure luck (which are essential to how leaders become). So our inboxes are flooded with training opportunities, funds drained from our employee development accounts that could be better spent elsewhere, and we’re left feeling like… We are like losers when we don’t stand up as the “leadership professors” we promised. This has created a culture-wide frenzy about all things leadership, with symptoms such as “Chief Pastry Officer” and “Chief Spiritual Officer,” as well as Tiny Leaders Children’s Center and Little Leaders Institute. , and daycare centers with names such as Lil Leaders Childcare. This “leadership for all” model comes at a high cost.

A Harvard training program that could help you get there costs $52,000 for the “basic” service, and an additional $27,000 for accessory modules that can grant you Harvard alumni status and a lifelong Harvard email address. Masu. Who wouldn’t want something like that on their resume? Our Program Advice Team, with a dedicated 1-800 phone number, is ready to answer your executive education questions. This is a level of access that Harvard’s “regular” undergraduate and graduate students can only dream of.

Another program at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania makes the near-miraculous claim of nearly self-paced study for no more than five hours a week for nine months. (Oh, and if he quickly applies within nine days of downloading the brochure, he’ll get $1,000 off the $20,000 tuition fee.)

As with the other products these schools excel at, the marketing is strong and the promises are illusory as leadership becomes firmly entrenched in the global bazaar. Crude oil, natural gas, corn, soybeans, leadership!

An increase in the number of inspiring leaders we can be proud of, and an increase in trust in those who will guide us through political, economic, technological, climate, and public health disruptions. If we can point out that the industry is worth the cost. But none of this is true; in fact, it feels like the opposite is true.

In their congressional testimony on campus anti-Semitism, the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT gave the impression that: taught to death. Perhaps by thinking that leadership is completely teachable, we are encouraging unsuitable candidates to envision their way to the top, and giving them more opportunities than they deserve once they reach the top. It may be.

Search for “leadership training” on Google Maps where FTX, Alameda Research, or Theranos’ headquarters were located, or indeed within a short radius of the U.S. Capitol, where leadership tragedies are almost constantly repeated. You’ll see countless entries. .Not due to lack of coaching FTX Founder Sam Bankman Freed, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes or Possibly former Congressman George Santos (RN.Y.).

In fact, what concerns me most about the leadership-industrial complex is the consistent rise in misfits and outright frauds as leaders.

With the rise of life coaching and leadership coaching, psychology and personality have been sidelined as coaches, with no requirements for mental health training or licensure, and the ability to diagnose troublesome symptoms such as antisocial personality disorder, which are common in leadership. has not been proven either. It’s a leader in the leadership industry, offering a type of therapy to leaders who would rather see a coach than deal with the stigma of psychotherapy.

New people-helping professions are welcome, but can a typical executive coach recognize an up-and-coming psychopath wearing an abundance of charm when he knocks on the HR door? I doubt it.

Psychology is also marginalized in other ways, such as when TED speakers on leadership claim that emotional intelligence, which has been shown to be an essential asset in leadership, can definitely be taught. Or when it is suggested to students that the necessary personality traits can be acquired through a weekend role-play workshop.

These traits are either present or absent, and if they are absent, the process of personality change is, if possible, tectonic. Freud himself spoke of the frustrating pace: . . Treatment is a legitimate desire. . . . Unfortunately, it is hindered by a very important factor. It is the speed with which profound changes of the heart are achieved. ” Like personality, there is nothing that can be “expressed” about leadership, but that doesn’t stop products like the “Leadership Express Series” from marketing themselves with confidence.

If I were a business school dean whose job was to recruit students to MBA leadership courses, I might argue that the industry isn’t big enough. Invest more heavily in training and reimbursement interventions early and watch your leadership pipeline explode into mini-Steve Jobs. . But I’m a psychiatrist, and the only way I see from this is to reinstate psychology as the main driver of leader emergence and success.

The tragic downfall of a dean who, contrary to everything we know about psychology, succeeded in using the prestige of academia to commercialize psychology into a profitable enterprise. feels like a logical outgrowth of his approach to leadership. Accordingly, to enable better leaders, we begin to ignore the logical fallacy that everyone is destined to be a leader, relax preparation and “growth,” and emphasize the need for individuality and character. It may be better to go back to recognizing it as an important element. You can’t buy it with that money.

And perhaps most of all, we need to show more respect to our followers. Their enthusiasm for leadership training and their sense of obligation to improve at all costs instills in them a sense of inferiority. We need to listen to them, invest in them, and reward them. And we need to do that by considering them for who they are, not their “leadership potential.”

Elias Abujaoudeh, MD, MA, is a clinical professor of psychiatry, chief of the anxiety disorders division, and director of the OCD clinic and impulse control disorder clinic at Stanford University’s Department of Psychiatry.

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