Renowned Stanford Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote a doozy of a book in 2015 entitled Leadership BS. It seems some titles create more noise years after publication, and that appears to be the case with Pfeffer’s book. It is getting some play once again in small and large organizations.
Great post today - I love it when Research Methods comes up. I enjoyed this book - I feel Jeff is a bit like Robert Greene - I'm not sure if he 100% believes his own hype but likes pushing boundaries a little to get us to challenge conventional wisdom (just my guess - I don't know either of these guys). The popular book, Good To Great, suffers from the same limitations - Selection bias and using point-in-time outcome measures. The best study I have read that attempts to overcome these limitations is from Ben Schneider, etal., out of the University of Maryland. They did a longitudinal study and collected employee satisfaction data and financial data (return on assets and earnings per share) over several years. Their conclusion, financial success drives employee satisfaction more than the other way around. - Paper is titled, Which Comes First: Employee Attitudes or Organizational, Financial, and Market Performance - Journal of Applied Psychology 88 No. 5 (Oct 2003). A summary of this work can also be found in the Phil Rosenzweig book, The Halo Effect: ... And 8 other business delusions that deceive managers - one of the chapter summaries states this: "Many things we commonly believe lead to company performance - Corporate Culture, Leadership, and more are often simple attributions based on company performance. This has been my personal experience - Mortgage Industry (Interest rates and rising home prices (equity), and NIH funding within the biotech industries - We like to puff our chest and tell each other how awesome we are when in reality it is the market conditions that drive most of it. With that said, I do believe Leadership does make a difference - in exactly the way you describe in this post - by building high-performing teams - by focusing on execution. I have a gut feeling that if there were more longitudinal studies on this topic, Leadership would continue to play a significant factor.
Good leaders create an environment and culture so that people can bring their best to work.
In fact, to do that they must see themselves as serving their team rather than the other way round.
The “bad” examples above seem to suggest power and exercising that power is the way to prevail. Totally wrong. In fact, it’s doubly wrong because it’s power to create fear that it suggests is driving performance. This will create a toxic environment.
Great article. Thanks.