Thoughts formed while watching and listening to people during my recent air travel:
"Leader" and "Leadership" are contemporary buzzwords. They are used so carelessly, for so many purposes, they have become largely useless. The more a word can be made to mean anything, the less value it has to mean something special.
Example: To sign off every cellphone conversation with a perfunctory, "I love ya," transforms the expression into a cliche — something widely employed as a substitute for any real thinking — or any truly useful purpose.
The more fashionable a subject becomes, the more entrepreneurs will show up to claim a piece of the action. They are like prospectors, come to stake out a proprietary claim to the ever-expanding territory of buzzwords.
A recent desperate example is the attempt to deny leadership by claiming that it belongs to everybody. (E.g., The Myth of Leadership: Creating Leaderless Organizations, by Jeffrey Nielsen.) Nice try. But, if true, why is the book written by a person? Why didn't "everybody" write it? Or, if everyone can lead, why do they require someone else to release their "inner leader"?
Are we befuddling ourselves? At what cost?
Following a similar thread, are we already creating "leaderless" organizations due the "pernicious incentives" described by Michael Watkins in his Management Tourists post? He warns of a trend observed in large organizations toward shorter and shorter time-in-position, which can cause managers to focus on short term projects, "avoid the harder work of improving processes or building skill-bases," and ignore long term problems.
I've described the result as executives practicing dilletantism, jumping from one thing to another looking for the one that will make him or her successful, or panacea-of-the-month. (Recipe # 18 in How Executives Fail: 25 Surefire Recipes for Sabotaging Your Career.)