5 Leadership Fads to Ignore

3 min read · 10 years ago


Every so often some academic, researcher, leadership guru, former somebody, or current wannabe writes a book that catches on and becomes the latest and greatest business or self-help fad. They’re mostly old concepts repackaged with catchy new names, trite ideas that go viral and develop cult-like followings, or one person’s way of doing things that all the pod people think they should copy so they can be just like him.I can count on one hand the number of management or business concepts that I thought were groundbreaking or really resonated with me over the past 30 years. The One Minute Manager, Gary Hamel’s Core Competency, the Tao of Leadership, and perhaps a few others. I’m sure they’ll come to me later.You can probably tell that I have little patience for trendy fads. They don’t work, waste precious time, turn you into a clone, and distract you from what you should be doing: achieving great things and otherwise having a good time.If you don’t want to become a zombie, then don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Avoid these fads in 2013 and beyond.Managing like Steve Jobs.First came the invasion of black mock turtlenecks, jeans, and sneakers. Then folks began mimicking his speaking style. Now executives and entrepreneurs are trying to clone the Apple icon’s management ideas. Unfortunately, you can’t just “copy and paste” talent, wisdom, or breakthrough leadership. It just doesn’t work that way.Listen to this. The Steve Jobs that everyone is trying to copy, the one who turned around Apple, isn’t even the same Steve Jobs whose toxic management style got him fired from the company he founded. That tragic and painful event changed him. It was a process he had to go through. That’s what created the guy who built the world’s biggest technology company. It’s called experience. You can’t clone it.Employee engagement.Of course, every executive and business leader wants employees to love their jobs and feel like they’re important to the company’s success. That’s a no-brainer. It’s also nothing new. The way to get employees motivated is by creating a culture where they really are empowered, where they really do make a difference, where they’re challenged and supported. It isn’t rocket science and you don’t have to hire Gallup to do it.Personal productivity and time management.When did squeezing every minute of productivity out of the day become a national obsession? Let me tell you something. If you’re hopelessly disorganized, if you’re not a morning person, if you have an office that looks like it was hit by a tornado, if you haven’t cleaned up your inbox in three years, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be broke and miserable. It just means you’re like most of the successful and innovative people I’ve known over the years.And if you still need to find more time, just do what I do. Less. Less is more. Prioritize. You’ll be more successful and happier. Just like that. Emotional intelligence.Traditional command-and-control style leadership is out. Soft skills are in. Who wouldn’t want an empathetic and self-aware CEO? The problem with the latest fad du jour, emotional intelligence, is that it’s impossible to measure objectively and it’s easy to game the questions. Also, if EI is really a predictor of business success, then how do you account for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, and dozens of other highly successful entrepreneurs and executives? That’s right; you can’t.Strengths-based leadership.The whole “strengths” movement — also brought to us by the good research folks at Gallup — strikes me as another one of those “Good to Great” moments where what maybe worked for some companies in the past doesn’t do squat for others in the future.Look, this is really simple. We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. If you’ve got strengths you can translate into competitive advantage, focus on them. If, however, you have significant weaknesses that might result in you shooting yourself in the foot and taking others down with you, then ignoring them may spell disaster.Here’s the thing. People who follow fads are just that. They’re followers. Don’t do that. Be yourself. Create your own culture. Lead. I have faith in you. Really. Read more:8 Beliefs That Make You More Resilient21 Things That Beat Your New Year's Resolution5 Surefire Ways to Piss Off Customers