Thursday, June 15, 2006

Drucker - leadership training is dangerous nonsense

Brilliant podcast from the great Peter Drucker. Deaf now, the questions had to be written down for him to reply, but he's as sharp and incisive as ever.

He lamblasts the current cult of leadership and leadership training. "All that talk about leadership is dangerous nonsense - it is a cop-out, forget about it", he urges. "We should be suspicious of leaders and their charisma", he adds. Finally, "If this makes me very unpopular, I hope I am."

Of course, he's absolutely right. The training world leapt onto the 'leadership' bandwagon with dozens of different and contradictory theories, then thought that 'courses' on leadership would be our saviour. It's all based on narcissism; cocky managers commissioning their own training departments to flatter them. In practice, most of these courses are messy quilts patched together and served up as a comforting cover for middle managers who want to dream that they're budding Ghengis Khans. There is surely nothing more laughable than seeing the guy with the combination lock briefcase on the 7.15 Brighton to London train reading "Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers".


Anonymous said...


You write some good stuff but this time I think you may have missed the point.

The next time you see someone on the London train reading "Sun Tzu and the Art of Business: Six Strategic Principles for Managers", could I suggest you ask them WHY they are reading it and WHAT they have learned that will help them to be a more effective leader?

Effective leadership development has little to with the model, study or theory underpinning the learning and everything to do with encouraging managers to step out of the day-to-day operational detail and drama so that they can reflect on what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they can help to make their organization and the people who work there more effective.

Good leadership training provides a excellent forum for individual reflection and group dialog - and can make a massive contribution to organizational effectiveness.


PS I would love to know if Peter Drucker would disagree with me ... but I don't believe he would.

Donald Clark said...

Listen to his podcast - I'm sure he would.

Anonymous said...


I believe you might be deliberately teasing me.... I did listen to the podcast before posting my comment as I am a huge fan of Peter Drucker.

He was excellent... but the main focus of his criticism was the concept of "charismatic leaders" not leadership development in itself.

I don't know of any L&D professionals who set out develop the "charisma" of their leadership team (.. but perhaps I should get out more..?) and as far as I know no-one has ever been able to truly define what "charisma" actually is and whether it can be learned.

Either way the leadership development practice has moved on and, if anything, is refocusing on principles of organizational effectiveness for which Drucker is well-known standard-bearer.

I just hope the pendulum doesn't swing back to far in the OE direction... as often happens in the learning & development world.

So to summarize... Peter Drucker is great... and you've missed the point this time ....but I still love your stuff.


PS Am I the only person out there who found this subject interesting enough to comment on it.. or is everyone just too scared of disagreeing with you?