Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters

“How,” asks Kellerman, “will we ever stop what we refuse to see and study?” Research director of the Center for Public Leadership and lecturer in public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Kellerman focuses in opening chapters on the nature of leadership, the rise of a “leadership industry,” the complicit role of followers, the definition of bad leadership and reasons for its occurrence. Kellerman’s style combines the direct prose of the boardroom with the erudition of the classroom; relevant citations abound, from Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes to Newsweek and Washington Monthly. Kellerman posits seven “types” of bad leadership and devotes a chapter containing a few brief examples and one detailed analysis to each. Drawing from the corporate, nonprofit, government and public opinion sectors, she examines instances of incompetence, rigidity, intemperance, callousness, corruption, insularity and even evil. Her focus isn’t limited to individual behavior; context and the actions of followers are also considered. For example, the International Olympic Committee is faulted as much as its former president for scandals and commercialism that have sometimes undermined the games. High-level cabinet members, prominent legislators and the nation as a whole share the blame for the Clinton administration’s failure to intervene in Rwanda’s genocide. The stories, and Kellerman’s final section of correctives, are complex and nuanced; there are no easy answers. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Editor’s Note: read an interview with the author at
http://www.conference-board.org/articles/atb_article.cfm?id=276

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