Now, there's an old saw. In his recent book, Henry Mintzberg "slams B-schools for teaching leadership," according to Rob on Business Pundit (23 October last fall). Other than the fact that Henry has made a career out of "slamming" things leaderly and managerially, there's more at stake here than a jibe at B-schools for simply catering to their marketplace.
As soon as anything is made into an academic subject, it becomes fair game for the predators out there to stake their claim. Some do this by presuming to be the keepers of the keys to the vault. Others by stalking and exposing those who do so. Another way of looking at this is that "leadership" has been a celebrity concept now for several years. And you know that celebrities are fair game for critics and the business press papparazzi. In this case, teaching "leadership" is a bit like teaching the esoterics of philosophy or of advanced calculus just in case someone may someday have a need for the one or the other.
We don't have a shortfall of leaders. Ranging from adequate to horrible, we are overwhelmed with people ready to be seen as "leaders." What we do have is a shortage of competent followers--whether as citizens or as thinkers. So far as I know, there are no courses in B-schools (or elsewhere in universities or corporate training programs) on "followership." One pundit observed that we have 25,000 books on managing and leading, but only four on following. If we define "following" as learning the competencies for providing leadership, we would have a glimpse of reality. A competent follower always trumps an incompetent leader.
So, could anyone suppose that we actually need more of the latter?