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The State of Leadership Today

If there was ever a need for sound leadership development, it is today. Good leadership unites teams and divides adversaries. However, even a cursory examination of leadership in the world will reveal that today’s leadership is dividing teams and uniting adversaries. Much of modern leadership—political, spiritual, organizational—is highly dysfunctional. You can get away with being dysfunctional if you have great leadership, but once leadership itself becomes dysfunctional the problem can no longer be hidden. Strong leadership focuses on people. Dysfunctional leadership focuses on the leader or the organization and forgets about the people. The modern state of leadership dysfunction has resulted in what can be confidently proclaimed to be one of the greatest crises in leadership the world has ever seen.

Some obvious examples of dysfunctional leadership can be found with the political leaders in Washington. An environment has been created where party is more important than the people, and any disagreement is immediately seen as an extreme position. Consequently, there is no cooperation between political parties, and little work is completed on behalf of the American people. Another example would be a manager who has high turnover and laments, “people just need to do their jobs.” Such a person is far more concerned with their own reputation than the welfare of their team. The high turnover is an unavoidable consequence.

The source of such dysfunction, I believe, goes further than just a lack of leadership knowledge or skills. Such things are technical problems that could be addressed through technical solutions. Instead, the problem is affective, not technical. We live in a very complex world, with complex jobs, and most people are not at a level of adult development, or mental complexity to handle the demands of their positions. Modern leadership requires very high levels of mental and emotional complexity, maturity, and openness. For most people, and indeed most training departments, the path toward this end is not clear.

Fortunately, there are experts that specialize in adult development, and helping people to grow in mental complexity. The process is sophisticated and requires a high level of brutal self-honesty on the part of the participants. It can be painful and difficult, but with the right mentor and coach, the rewards are invaluable.

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