Cut Off at the Pass: The Limits of Leadership in the 21st Century

America has a leadership deficit, argues Barbara Kellerman in a new paper that examines the current state of leadership in the United States. Surveying leadership’s genesis and its role as a compelling, powerful concept through history, Kelllerman asserts that our current understanding of leadership and fixation on leadership development is badly misplaced. As leaders in the Boomer generation give way to Gen Xers and Gen Yers , the established leader-centric model, with the leader at the helm controlling the action, no longer holds – it’s passé, obsolete in today’s modern, bottom-up world, states Kellerman.

Corporate America is not immune from this leadership deficit, Kelleerman observes, and is impacted by the idea that leaders (and managers) must be more democratic and less autocratic, and that some stakeholders should be treated more equitably in the workplace (employees), while others should have more of a say in corporate governance (shareholders).

Kellerman offers a different paradigm of how to view leadership in the 21st century and uses a visual model: imagine an equilateral triangle, with the leader, the followers, and the context each constituting a single, pointedly equal, side. She urges America to increase civic engagement of ordinary citizens to help leadership thrive again.

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