The End of Leadership

Barbara Kellerman's latest doesn't exactly sound the end of leadership, but she does think the leadership industry is grim in the U.S.


(Photo: Kayla Chobotiuk)

(Harper Business)
Barbara Kellerman

It’s hard to believe that an author who has made a career of the “leadership” racket—with book titles such as Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters; and Reinventing Leadership: Making the Connection Between Politics and Business—would now be calling for its end. There’s too much money to be mined from that 10-letter word.

And indeed, Kellerman is doing no such thing. The title of her latest book, she explains, is meant as a caution about the future of leadership: “For nearly everywhere, leaders are found wanting, followers are restive, and the context is changing…unless we get a grip, the prognosis is grim.” She thinks the situation is particularly grim in the United States—the country where the leadership industry was born but where “government and business are suffering from a near breakdown” in their capacity to effect change.

The book’s purpose is twofold: to explain how notions of leadership have changed in recent decades (with flat organizations, a more democratic world and individual-empowering technology, leaders—surprise—are not as powerful as they used to be), and to expose the faults—and propose some fixes—for her own industry. And it’s all yours for the low, low price of $31.99.