The Leadership Vacuum

by Mike Myatt

Leadership VacuumThe biggest problem with the leadership industry is found within the ranks of those who call themselves leadership advisors. There is nothing short of a voluminous amount of leadership information being published on a daily basis. The number of books, blogs, tweets, videos, webcasts, podcasts, etc., being pushed into the market is reaching truly overwhelming proportions. It’s been my experience that regardless of the subject, it is precisely when the noise becomes the loudest, that it’s most difficult for the consumer to extract quality and value from the market. The text that follows is meant as both a rebuke of my industry, and a challenge to my fellow practitioners… It is my hope that this post stimulates vigorous discussion, and a great deal of thought on how we evolve the practice & discipline of leadership, not for our own glory, but for the good of our clients and society as a whole.

Before I go any further, today’s rant should not be construed as a call for elitism, but rather a call for authenticity, innovation and professionalism. As leadership advisors and coaches we counsel our clients on the need for change and innovation, but have we become the proverbial shoe maker without shoes? We ask our clients ”why should anyone be led by you?” but a better question might be “why should anyone be advised by us?” When was the last time you read something new, groundbreaking, or significant with regard to the practice and discipline of leadership? Is it because everything valuable in regard to leadership has already been discovered? I think not… rather I believe that many among us are sadly lacking the innovative approach to our practice that we so consistently demand from our clients.

I believe our world is suffering greatly due to a lack of leadership. Examine any of the major problems of our time and you’ll quickly and clearly see a lack of leadership at the root of the issue. In fact, if you listen carefully you’ll readily hear a loud sucking sound that I refer to as the leadership vacuum. With all of us pushing leadership advice and counsel, why is it that our leaders are failing at such alarming rates? Are we as an industry fulfilling the mission of developing great leaders capable of handling great challenges and accomplishing great things, or are the majority of those entering our ranks just here to make a quick buck?

I would venture to say that there are literally tens of thousands of consultants and coaches who bill themselves as leadership subject matter experts. If you Google ”leadership development” more than 4 million search results are returned. How many of these practitioners are qualified? Who are the real leadership thought leaders? Spare me the slick info-product sales people, and give me authentic, professional practitioners of the art and science of leadership.

I have long believed in eating my own cooking. I simply don’t proffer what I don’t practice. I can’t help clients lead change if my business model is antiquated or static. It is simply not possible to develop leaders if you’re not one yourself. Let’s not create more trumped-up professional credentials to make unqualified practitioners feel better about themselves, but let’s focus on the real issue… being better practitioners of our craft, and delivering real value through actionable advice rendered to our clients.

I’m not interested in more tired rhetoric, but I am sincerely interested in welcoming dialogue with anyone passionate about the profession of leadership. Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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  1. I don’t think there is a leadership vacuum. The space is overwhelmingly full.

    There are a few problems I have with ‘leadership’. The biggest is that it may not be leading us anywhere worthwhile – a sustainable and human future. I think if people were being lead here they might pay more attention, don’t you? But another percentage or so on the bottom line – frankly who cares?

    I’m saying that all the noise about leadership doesn’t deliver significant value.

    I think that (at best) professional and authentic are in tension. At worst contradictory. If the advisor is bound to present tried and tested formulas (how professionals are assessed) then it isn’t exactly surprising that there is not a lot of creativity around. I’d be more interested in the leadership talk if there were more edgy people and fewer professional associations (professional associations are bureaucratic – do you wonder why there is a dearth of creativity?

    If you want to lead me somewhere worthwhile I’ll be interested. Other stuff comes a distance second for me. I’ll be interested to see what others think.

  2. I agree. There are too many “leaders.” Most of them are not leaders at all.

    The existence of a leadership industry should be a warning to us. Much like the defense industrial complex, this leadership complex has nothing to do with leadership. Leadership isn’t a product. Leadership is something done. And, it isn’t done by special people. Put any random three people at a table, give them a task, and a leader will emerge. Take it further by taking all the emergent leaders from all your tables and put them again at tables for three, and again a leader will emerge. But, that’s not how we do it in business, and as a result, we need a leadership industry to back up the falseness of our leaders. We need all the leader is moral, smart, or creative proclamations, none of which helps us find the real leaders.

    Leaders lead. Leaders lead without job titles. Leaders lead without astronomical salaries. Leaders lead without the leadership industry. Leaders lead, because they are leaders.

    If they are not leaders, they will not become leaders. They may gain a job title, or an astronomical salary, or a corner office, but they will never lead, regardless of how many leadership courses they’ve taken, how many leadership conferences they’ve attended, or how many leaders they know.

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