Leadership: Reconciling Theory and Practice

I wonder if leadership is in its death throes – if was ever alive?

Since the nineteen-fifties we have had (in no particular order), Situational Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Ethical Leadership, Servant Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Agile Leadership, Action Centred Leadership, Level 5 Leadership and I don’t know how many others.

Everything I’ve read about leadership tells me it is about, “influencing others to contribute to an organisations objective” and everything I’ve read about leaders tells me they need to be open, have empathy, include others, be collaborative, empower those around them, etc. and that it has absolutely nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) to do with having power!!

When I look around the current world political leaders in the spotlight, I see:

  • An American President who uses the power of his position to make unilateral decisions
  • A Russian President who has interchanged his role with his Prime Minister to maintain power
  • A Chinese President who has changed the constitution such that he can maintain his power for the rest of his life
  • A Turkish President who has made constitutional changes to give him more power

The list goes on

All the above (and many others) are all the “leaders” of their respective countries; however, they are being very discrete in their influencing!!!

I see little, empathy, empowerment & inclusion, and a lot of bragging, manipulating & name-calling.

At the funeral of Nelson Mandela, Ban Ki-moon, Obama and others talked of the nobleness of Mandela. There were many speeches about how Mandela was the “incarnation” of leadership and how he was an “example” to other world leaders. The importance of his “compassion” and his desire for “reconciliation” was praised as the watchwords for the future – personally, I’m still watching for them!

If I look at business leaders, I see senior leaders awarding themselves huge salary increases while laying off “workers” (often by SMS) to increase profit, or delocalising because the profit margin is not thick enough.

At lower levels of many organisations, managers are still selected on their “subject” knowledge and their ability to “manage”.

After more than 30 years of consultants & trainers singing the praises of empowerment, dialogue, and empathy I still see command and control everywhere.

  • Where is the leadership incarnated by MLK and Gandhi?
  • Where is the leadership that is disconnected from power?
  • Where are the leaders with integrity, courage, and humility?
  • Where is this leadership that I have been defending since my first leadership seminar in September 1986?

I have a colleague who likens leadership to the Yeti, “often talked about but never seen”

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Bob Larcher
Bob Larcherhttp://www.boblarcher.com/
Bob Larcher is an independent leadership development consultant; he has been designing & delivering personal, team & leadership development programs for almost 35 years, both in English and in French and his clients include Blue Chip corporate giants, Charities, Start-ups, and the Public Sector. Bob is also a visiting lecturer at several French Business Schools. Since his first leadership seminar in 1986, Bob has designed and delivered in excess of 3000 days of training & coaching. His background is in Outdoor Management Development and he was previously a shareholder of a major player in the UK market; he is an Accredited Practitioner of the UK Institute of Outdoor Learning and a member of the panel reviewing articles for their journal, “Horizons”. He is based in Toulouse in France but works all over Europe. Bob is an accredited Insights Discovery Personal Profile user, an accredited Integrated Leadership Measure user and a Master Trainer in Mental Toughness. He also designs customized 360° leadership & management evaluations Bob is passionate about helping people to discover, develop and deploy their leadership capacity in order to enable them to drive the personal, organizational and societal transformations they are involved in.


  1. Oh my goodness, Bob, is this a piece that’s way overdue! I carry these questions with me everywhere I teach, but rarely speak them. I don’t want to politicize my work, ever, because I know that in order for people to hear me, for any hope of influence and thus change, I cannot afford to alienate the very people whom I hope to reach. Yet this truth lurks in the air in every conversation I have about authenticity and purpose and empathy and care. I convince myself I’m planting seeds for the future. But I often feel like Sisyphus.