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Gagging, choking, constricting

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OK. Let’s recap. No, before we do that, make sure you’ve already read: Difficult Truths, Too Big to Swallow – Pt I because we really don’t want to have type that again

[unless we can submit a supplemental statement of work to recharge you for content already completed – then, naturally, we’d love nothing more than to regurgitate for your reading pleasure]

Read it? Good. Then we’ll continue.

Whatever the discipline in which you consult, we know you’ve found the truth to which we alluded in Part I. Namely that the central, single, paramount, core, unique, primary, individually singlemost singularly single area that is at the root cause of every consulting gig in the world is: Leadership.

Get that? Leadership.



Let’s review the data presented in Part I.

Leadership books outnumber the nearest on the list (Business Strategy) by a factor of fully 5:1, Organization Culture by around 10:1 and, most alarmingly, Talent Management by 36:1.

We’re going to put that in big letters just so you remember it:

Leadership:Talent Management = 36:1

Here’s what we know from our experience and what is shown so clearly by these statistics.

  • Most of the consulting work in the world is treating symptoms (strategy, culture, talent, change) of a single root-cause (leadership or the lack thereof)
  • Obviously, there is a market for books about leadership
  • Less people are interested in developing talent for the future than are interested in how to plug the leadership gap in the current

And that, quite simply, is what it boils down to.

Any gig can be traced back quite clearly to a lack of leadership. So any gig where you’re fixing leaders should be carefully managed to ensure it only achieves moderate success. Golden geese can lay golden eggs for quite some time, the last thing you want to do is turn them into gilded fois gras.

And the beauty of this cycle of mutual benefit is this: the more you treat the symptoms, the greater the reduction in leadership effectiveness. Think of a major merger or acquisition. Now, know that consultants are running the Program Management Offices, the Executive Presentations, the Senior Talent Selections and the major decisions on divestitures, growth and site closures. Leadership are… Are… Thinking really hard on the culture they want to create once the dust settles.

Culture – only a 10th as interesting as leadership. Consultants are leading, leaders are… er… erm… well…


Which is why so many books are written about leadership.

Only a small proportion of any workforce can formally be labelled as leaders

[and don’t get us started on ‘every colleague a leader’, ‘leading from every chair’ or any other such homily that tries to blame the wider workforce for the absence of quality leadership]

while the vast majority of the workforce can’t – but want to be. The followers buy the books, the leaders buy the books, consultants write the books.

After 256,503 books, do you really think there is anything more to be taught, written or understood on the subject of leadership? If not, then we really are back to the central conundrum of the late 20th century: are leaders born or made? Nature or nurture?

Leaders and followers alike want to believe it’s nurture – that we can all grow to be leaders (and earn the requisite rewards). But with 256,503 books and counting and still no general proof that leadership is evolving, growing or learning in most corporations, we really do have to come back to what seems to be a simple truth.

Leaders are born not made.

So, stop buying books on leadership. And start buying books on business strategy, organization culture, talent management, people management and change management.

[and notice very clearly the word management appearing repeatedly – but that’s another blog completely]

because, put simply:

  • You need a business strategy that people can commit to and deliver even in the absence of leadership
  • You need an organization culture that enables people to deliver even in the absence of leadership
  • You need talent management practices that grow true leaders despite the ‘leaders’ who are assessing the talent
  • You need managers who can develop the future while delivering the present; and finally…
  • You’d better be good at change, because you’re going to have to do it despite, and in spite of, your current leaders

There now… Does it finally makes sense?

Á Bientôt, mes amis,


PS: If you really want to write a business book that sells – call it “The Leadership of Strategic Talent Management” – it’s a guaranteed best-seller.