“Self-esteem” was a big deal in education during my formative years. The rhetoric surrounding self-esteem was right up there with Striving For Excellence and Just Say No on my list of reasons for holding adults in intellectual contempt. The problem with emphasizing self-esteem over self-awareness is best expressed in the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The less people know, the more they assume that they know.
My biggest beef with books about “leadership” is the presupposition that readers know where they fit in their organizations and which leadership skills and techniques are appropriate relative to their position in the hierarchy. I get a lot of inspiration out of online leadership literature (leadiature?) from this guy, for example. A typical post offers ideas for generating urgency. There’s something people at any professional level can get out these insights, to be sure, but do you trust everyone in your organization to decide if and when it is appropriate to burn bridges? I’d love to see a couple of listicles from him on figuring out whether you’re applying the right leadership skill set for your actual place in the organization. This week GovExec ran a couple of good pieces about understanding what your boss wants and leading change from somewhere other than the top.
Dino Spouse and I watched the first two episodes of “World Wars” last night and tonight as I was blogging and reading leadiature. We met young Hitler, young Churchill, young Roosevelt and so on at the outset of World War I and watched them evolve. The on-screen experts more or less mirror the demographics of said world leaders. It’s not bad television, especially when leavened with Dino Spouse cracking wise about the intended audience for the program (“Is it for 12 year-olds?”) and my feminist grumbling (“I just found out that you can’t be an authority on World War I without a penis!”) I’m curious to see how much examination the series gives to the personal leadership styles of its Great Man subjects. I’m also wondering how much I can admire the charms of the actor playing young Hitler without it being weird.