Although the headline of this piece in today’s New York Times, “Not Leadership Material? Good. The World Needs Followers, accepts the leader/follower dichotomy, the article itself both reinforces that traditional notions of “leadership” are pervasive, and points out some alternatives.

The following excerpts reflect the pervasiveness of traditional notions:

If college admissions offices show us whom and what we value, then we seem to think that the ideal society is composed of Type A’s. This is perhaps unsurprising, even if these examples come from highly competitive institutions. It’s part of the American DNA to celebrate those who rise above the crowd. And in recent decades, the meteoric path to leadership of youthful garage… So now we have high school students vying to be president of as many clubs as they can. It’s no longer enough to be a member of the student council; now you have to run the school….

…many students I’ve spoken with read “leadership skills” as a code for authority and dominance and define leaders as those who “can order other people around.” And according to one prominent Ivy League professor, those students aren’t wrong; leadership, as defined by the admissions process, too often “seems to be restricted to political or business power.”…

Adam Grant, who has written several books on what drives people to succeed, says that the most frequent question he gets from readers is how to contribute when they’re not in charge but have a suggestion and want to be heard. (emphases added)

2 Responses to Leadership

  1. And of course they leave class privilege out of their analysis.

    The United States is probably one of the most class-ridden societies among developed countries. Yet we have this fiction that we are very egalitarian.

    People sense that others come from a more privileged class, and automatically defer to them. Thus, if you are from a rich family, you become a “leader,” because most people will do what you say.

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