Friday, October 11, 2013

Leadership: The Ugly Side

There are lots of articles and books out there on leadership. Inspiring, humorous, or pragmatic and instructive; they come in many forms. Field Wicker-Miurin gave a TED talk a few years ago of the inspirational sort - people from around the world who, through extraordinary dedication and passion, have made a significant difference in their community. She called it Learning from leadership's Missing Manual.

It seems that after a number of years in leadership positions, a person is compelled to write his or her own tome to contribute to the leadership literature. However, I have noticed that there is a book missing from the shelves. My missing manual is not Wicker-Miurin's heart warming perspective, but rather one that would dive into the ugly side of leadership. This book would explore leaders' lived daily experience and the parts too embarrassing or sad to acknowledge to one's colleagues or to eager initiates. I have listed below some (roughly sequential) chapter titles that such a book directed to beginning leaders might include. The alternative chapter titles written in brackets after each chapter heading from Leadership: The Ugly Side are the related euphemistic topics more typically found in leadership literature.

  • Go Find Yourself an Office (Establishing Yourself: The First Test)
  • Jumping onto the Merry-Go-Round (Demonstrating Commitment to the Organization)
  • Deer in the Headlights (The Honeymoon Phase)
  • Getting Dumped On (Learning the Scope of Your Portfolio and Saying No)
  • Saviour or Satan? (Staying True to Your Leadership Style)
  • Lost in the Acronyms (Preparing Well and Doing your Research)
  • Minefield of Organizational History (Learning the Institutional Culture)
  • Sycophants and Concealed Knives (Managing Difficult People)
  • No Time to Pee (Doing More with Less)
  • Golf, Hockey, and Cars: The Old Boys' Network from the Outside (Women in Leadership)
  • Betrayals and Dirty Work (Change Management)
  • Cutting Deals (Relationship Building)
  • Despair and Self-loathing (Coping with Burnout)
  • Shackled to a Merry-Go-Round on Hyperdrive (Time Management)
  • Disappearance of Life Outside of Work (Striving for a Work Life Balance)
  • Health Consequences (Building Fitness into your Schedule)
  • In a State of Numbness (Achieving Equilibrium)
  • Non-Failure (Success!)
  • Dumping it on the New Guy/Gal (Delegation and Mentorship)
  • The School of Hard Knocks (Writing a Book on Leadership)
Looking at the ugly side of the experience of leadership, sometimes it is hard to remember what it is all for. Maybe I should watch Wicker-Miurin's talk again, or go and read another one of those inspirational leadership books. Or maybe I should start writing my contribution to the literature: Leadership: The Ugly Side.

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