|A Warning on Dangerous Leadership|
|Nation - Workplace|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Sunday, 15 April 2012 02:00|
Oslo, Norway. Jan Ketil Arnulf says that some of the greatest moments lived by humanity are the product of leadership but so are some of humanity's most terrible experiences.
Working environment surveys throughout the past 50 years have shown that the most common source of stress in working life is the immediate supervisor.
Arnulf is an Associate Professor at the BI Norwegian Business School of Management. At our best, he says, we can transform the world into a better place; at our worst, humans can massacre with horrific efficiency. Leadership can be motivating and inspiring or a nuisance. And this is true not only of dramatic moments, but also of drawn-out, everyday jobs.
Jan Ketil Arnulf, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the BI Norwegian Business School of Management.Sniffing Out Dangerous Leadership
Professor Arnulf's research deals with what leadership is and how it is exercised, saying that the field of leadership lies in the grey zone between science and mysticism. The principal concern of his new book, Hva er ledelse? (What is leadership?), is to communicate science-based knowledge on leadership, leaders and how to lead. His examples range from leadership at its best and worst.
"There are few things more dangerous than leadership," Arnulf asserts, citing three dangerous aspects
The more conscious you are of the dangers of leadership and leaders, the easier you will find avoiding their pitfalls.
Danger 1: Romantic Illusion
Arnulf is an organisational theorist; for him, leadership is a fairly new term associated with words such as power, governance, authority, bossing people around, and so forth. "Not even analysts of leadership agree on a shared definition of the term," the professor notes.
He challenges us to imagine the possibility that there may not be such thing as leadership. "It is just possible that leadership may prove to be an illusion, much like the colours of the rainbow, or our sense that the earth is flat," he dares us. "If this is the case, belief in leadership can lead to disastrous consequences. The illusion of leadership can be just as dangerous for the leader as for his or her followers."
According to Dr Arnulf, leadership is much more about interaction than is generally understood. "Leaders rely on social influence; they are chosen, hired and informed by others. Experiments have been done to see whether we are able to recognise good leadership when it is before our eyes.
Sadly, they have shown that this is not the case." We do not recognise good leadership when we see it, Arnulf says. In fact, "We judge the quality of leadership after the event, based on the result." Arnulf has himself conducted studies in which he showed that most people have simplistic, heroic expectations of their leaders. "We often support leaders who are able to create an illusion of leadership."
Danger 2: Dark Side of Charisma
Those who attain leadership post obtain concrete means of exercising power which are greater than their ability to exert social influence. Because of their power bases and alliances, leaders are able to decide over other people's lives and well-being. Leaders often have the power to spend money, make decisions, control information and decide who does what.
"Leaders sometimes find themselves in a position where they may develop insatiable needs," Arnulf warns us. However, more money, power and prestige are trifles compared with the real prize of leadership: playing the role of the infallible leader in one's own and others' eyes. "Coming too close to the essence of leadership can be dangerous."
Leaders with normal ambitions will adapt their visions and plans to reality, even if this proves painful. But some leaders disregard reality, and respond by becoming even more impenetrable and more insistent when they experience unpleasantness.
"While this can be perceived as signs of an iron will, which goes with the role, it can turn into narcissism a pathological, excessive faith in one's own infallibility and importance, combined with a lack of respect for others' feelings and integrity."
Danger 3: Derailed Leadership A Health Threat
Our longing for leaders who literally lead the way also opens the doors for leaders that turn into problems. "It is much easier to advance professionally by being like a good leader than by actually
Being like a good leader means that you impress your surroundings by appearing result-oriented, talking in management jargon, appearing confident and determined, understanding which superiors you need to agree with and making sure you make a good impression.
The most dangerous version of the leader who is like a good leader is the derailed leader. Such leaders can find themselves at cross-purposes both with the staff's and the organisation's interests. "They use their "leader-like" behavior as a blind for their own interests. This sort of leader can cause great damage before being unmasked.
According to Dr Arnulf, a lack in skills and expertise can often explain derailed leadership. Such leaders are unable to handle the responsibility and work load, as well as their unmanageable employees, causing them to take short cuts.
"Incompetent leaders result in a loss of motivation, co-operation and creativity, not to mention all the time that is needed to straighten out all the damage they have caused."
CitationWhat is leadership? (Hva er ledelse?). Jan Ketil Arnulf. University Press (Norway) 2012. ISBN 9788215005522
|Last Updated on Sunday, 15 April 2012 11:09|