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13 Feb 2014

Leadership, The Secret (Pt 7): Experts, Research & Beauty Contests

This entry is part 7 of 14 in the series Leadership - The Secret

3 Gold StarsLeadership’s subjectivity and its unproven scientific status tempts us to rely heavily upon experts and their research to tell us what good leadership is. We typically have this reliance when anything is difficult to fit a definition.

For instance, consider assessments of psychiatric disorders in courts. It’s not easy to say whether someone fits a particular definition, so courts usually rely upon expert witnesses. Moreover, it’s not unusual for expert witnesses to disagree on diagnoses. They all use the same definition but apply it differently. The same is true for leadership except leadership doesn’t have a formal definition as many psychiatric disorders do. Therefore, leadership experts not only get to say whether a leader fits their definition of good leadership, but they also get to write their definition.

Now, let’s take a beauty contest. At minimum, judges have common, documented criteria along with weightings for scoring. Granted, judges still have much leeway to fit their preferences into the guidelines, but the point is this: judging leadership has no such commonly accepted criteria and weightings. Thus, from this perspective, assessing leadership isn’t even on par with a beauty contest.

The tremendous flexibility that leadership experts have in defining and assessing leadership also gives them tremendous flexibility in their research to interpret data as they wish. This doesn’t even consider their difficulties in adhering to the scientific method. In sum, science’s irrational elements have tremendous opportunities to wreak havoc on any purported objectivity advertised in their research. In short, any expert’s assessment of leadership is barely better than a personal, subjective view of what leadership is and what constitutes good leadership.

For us, the laypeople, this only confirms our observations of one byproduct of the secret of leadership. A leader defined as good by experts could be very bad for us.


Series Navigation<< Leadership, The Secret (Pt 6): Scientifically UnprovenLeadership, The Secret (Pt 8): Top Rule Violator >>

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