Occupy Leadership!

Ok, that’s it! Enough! A line must be drawn.

Leadership training and development has been hijacked by the 1%. It’s time to give it back. It’s time it returns to the 99%.

What prompts such an intense reaction in me? What could be so vile, so sinister, so destructive as to literally turn my stomach?

Today, in the mail, I received a flyer from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. yes, I’m going to use their real name. While I have no guile toward people involved, it is time someone stands up and reveals their curriculum, their ideals and their ideas for the destructive and devastating force they have become.

Here’s the content of the flyer, verbatim. (Misplaced commas and all)

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“Power and Influence”

New – Strategically managing business relationships  April 11 – 12.

Successful leaders must not only make the right decisions – they must also influence others to support and execute those decisions. Implementing strategy, initiating change, and executing decisions all require the ability to influence, inspire, and shape other’s behavior.

The Power and Influence program will help you to learn the practical tools to become more powerful and influential in your dealings with coworkers, managers, and partners. You will learn to:

  • Acquire power and lead others even when you lack formal authority
  • Manage your team and inter-personal relationships more effectively
  • Harness the latest scientific evidence to create powerful and lasting influence
  • Master a practical toolkit for crafting strategic verbal and non-verbal communication

Tuition $2500

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Where do I begin?

1. Power and Influence

The very title oozes with arrogance and assumption of control. It is clear from this piece that they are using “power over” rather than “power with” others. Rather than “power with.” It involves making decisions for people and then trying to manipulate them rather than defining oneself and giving choices. Anyone who has tried this with teenagers knows there is a huge problem with this approach – IT DOESN’T WORK! You may gain initial ground that gives the appearance of success. But rest assured, the systemic forces of homeostasis and the status quo will rebound with a vengeance. The result is a situation that is worse than the initial situation the leader was attempting to change.

2. Manage interpersonal relationships

Really! Are you kidding me? How is it we can control how others interact unless we lock them in solitary confinement? How is it we can set an outcome between two other people and expect to be able to control this so we can get our way. (I can tell you as a marriage and family therapist, that kind of superpower would have been handy!)

3. Harness the latest scientific evidence to create powerful and lasting influence

Excuse me but this sounds more like an advertisement for a new diet plan. Powerful? Lasting? What are they selling here? Again, it is the same old failed model of top-down control. Only this time, they christen it with the “sci-co-babble” of the social science model to give it credibility (as if power and lasting influence were brand new discoveries direct from the lab.) Again,this buys in to the illusion of control. After all, “lasting” is sort of a long time.

4. Master a practical tool-kit for crafting strategic communication

It’s all about having the right tools and knowing how to use them. Push the button. Throw the right lever. Flip the right switch.  Where are such things as character, maturity, courage, creativity and vision? The art and complexity of leadership is reduced to plumbing.

I find all of these points beyond naive. It is naive to think that the invasive and destructive forces in organizations can be managed and educated away. Immaturity, sabotage, anxious and destructive behavior are merely problems to be managed rather than faced decisively and clearly for the toxic forces they are.

Maybe you think I’m being unfair but I can’t be kind about this. Aside from being ridiculous, arrogant and misleading these ideas are destructive. They are destructive in shoring up the illusion and the expectation of control. What happens to leaders when the inevitably fall short? What happens to followers along the way. They end up shredded, that’s what happens. Demoralized, data-addicted leaders, thinking the problem is they didn’t study enough, they didn’t use the right “tools” at the right time; leaders on treadmills of trying harder; demoralized employees/members baffled by the latest and greatest productivity initiative; dispirited employees/members, weary from being treated like they are children – all result from of this kind of thinking.

Oh there’s one more result of this kind of thinking, the “pushers” providing the never ending streams of techniques, tools and data  to the newly created addicts are getting rich. They’ve got a good scam going. The students should be paid to take this kind of abuse instead of the other way around.

It’s time to occupy leadership! Now!

Steve Geske

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