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Leadership Dilemma: The American Leadership Paradox

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As coaches, we aim to support the development of our clients to meet strategic goals and to enhance overall quality of life. Coaching and Leadership intersect – In the organizational sense; Associates want value from their leaders, and desire to develop a co-relationship focused on achieving success. The current zeitgeist of Leadership is trending towards acquiring specific skills that is possessed by the coaching industry. As potential change agents, coaches must ask powerful questions about the psychological dynamics of our society at large.

Are we at war with ourselves?

Why are large bureaucratic organizations slow to act?

How do we understand the complexities of the struggle?

Society demands a powerful altruistic Leader that makes quick decisions that benefit everyone while simultaneously providing security. However, America is a nation of individualists who strive to be the Leader, and are ashamed to be categorized in the role of follower. Simply, American culture frowns upon the follower and the omnipotent Leader is exaggeratedly admired.

•Who do you want to be?

The Leader of course! Well, the problem is that Leaders need followers. If everyone is the Leader and no-one follows, then there is a Leadership dilemma called The American Leadership Paradox.

1. Society wants community and togetherness, but explicitly yearns for a capitalist society with individualist freedom

2. Society values family, but relishes in the rebel persona

3. American culture is a paradox that attempts to indulge within both ends of the spectrum Leaders are unable to lead because society chooses to scoff at instead of follow. Cognitive dissonance is displayed towards Leaders, and society at large believes they are capable of producing better results. Trust and integrity have been squandered by previous leaders which disables pre-determined respect for future Leaders.

The Nature/Nurture debate – Is it inborn or due to the situation? Current research has determined the debate to be estimated at a 50/50 split. If there are wonderful Leaders and the situation is not conducive to leading, then the cold-hard truth is – Leaders will fail 50% of the time regardless of inborn or learned ability. Current Leadership is failing at an astounding rate (over 70%). What constitutes leadership failure? Short answer: Not meeting goals.

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One Comment

  1. GEEC

    April 21, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Hi Keith,
    This was a very well written article. It gave me pause as we’re about to launch 14-new classes on leadership and development over the next few months. Pause, why? you ask. Personally, I have spent over 4-years of my life and $40k developing amazing products and services based on market research for my clients. The first thought that came to mind after reading this article was, is there going to be a new term for leadership. I hurriedly rushed over to adword and speedily looked up any alternative terms for leadership. Whew! leadership still works. But on my search I found an interesting article that again made me wonder about leadership and innovation management. From another angle… what if we instead of leading by seniority, or position, we lead by innovation. You know that’s what my husband and I do in our marriage and it works great. Who ever has the best intuition, insight and mindset in the moment take the lead. It is an inflow and outflow based on who is best to fill the shoes at the time. I wonder if we can propose an innovation in leadership where the leader is the one who is most open to succeeding at the time. I wonder what it would do to our push me pull you society. Is that to radical for a capitol driven society, with all the LOA language out there today, I wonder what would come of our world. What if leadership became a team effort based on who was most fit for the project this week. We all have moment of time when we’re just not able to perform at our best, even when we are doing our best. What would happen is we were able to let go of our need to be on top and created a system that there was no shame in letting the mail boy carry the meeting later this week. How would it change our pay structures, and what would it do to the land of opportunity? Just a thought from a GEEC.


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