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Wanted: Leaders Who Use Their Powers for Good

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After writing my last column, an overview of the very disheartening book called Leadership BS, I practically had to wipe my tears off of my keyboard. The book’s author, Jeffrey Pfeffer, presents research to demonstrate that the business environment encourages aberrant leadership behaviors — selfishness, immodesty, lying, and so on — in spite of their negative impact. And, during my interview with Pfeffer, he squelched my dream of a conscious capitalist utopia when he stated his belief that companies routinely named the best places to work because of their open, honest, and transparent environments will continue to be the exception rather than the rule. “Leaders will trade off money and performance for ego, power, and control” time and time again, he told me.

But now that I’ve had some time to get over the shock of having my hopes dashed so summarily, my tears have dried. And, upon reflection, I have to respectfully disagree. In the fight for talent, the current dismal state of employee engagement is no longer tenable. Furthermore, there are too many “best of” exemplars of companies that are doing things right and turning a profit at the same time for firms and leaders to rationalize their bad behavior as “just business.” I believe we can, want, and must to do better.

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