I feel compelled to write a response to an article I read on FoxBussiness.com. Steve Tobak wrote an article about what he called the "Leadership Business" (what I am interpreting as the Leadership Development Industry) titled: "Calling BS on the Leadership Business." and how this industry is essentially taking advantage of people who start and run businesses. Though, there are some thoughts that I agree with, I feel he is missing the true purpose to why this industry has grown in the first place. In addition, I believe he has also painted the entire industry with too broad of a brush with his claims.
Below are my thoughts and opinions to quotes and excerpts taken from his article.
The very start of the article Steve kicked it off with that it was not long ago that the terms "Leadership" and "Entrepreneurship" were rarely used:
I say that is very true, however, we should understand the WHY in that statement. We are seven years since the economy collapsing in 2008. What got us to that point of collapse was greed, corporate and political corruption, and a great void in moral leadership. So, when the statement is made that we did not talk about "Leadership" and "Entrepreneurship," it's because that void had not blown up in our faces, yet. As a society and as a culture, we were not fully aware of the coming consequences to the lack of leadership. We call it the "Housing Bubble," but the bubble was in the false assumptions that all the successes in the economy were on a solid foundation. Lack of leadership was propped up by crony capitalism. Financial gains masked what was rotting beneath the surface. Now, in the aftermath, we have identified the root causes and have moved to address them, hence the growth of the "Leadership Business."
I would also state that the very reason that the credible coaches and speakers who have found the "Leadership Business" as a calling, are the people who desire to never let the 2008 collapse ever happen again. Speaking for myself; prosperity resides with moral leaders, and I intend to help people maximize their own leadership potential so they not only prosper, but their prosperity bleeds over to the whole society.
Steve followed up by essentially claiming that the fad of the leadership business has grown from the ideals of "crazed zealots and opportunists" who are are, what I interpret from what he writes, taking advantage of people who start and run companies. He follows this up with the next paragraph stating that the "Leadership Business" is made of "bloggers, coaches, academics, and gurus - self-proclaimed experts who, with rare exception, have never actually run a business or led a real company."
This is an instance of painting with too broad of a brush. I will agree that there a lot of people in the leadership development industry who are jumping on a fad to target start-ups and small businesses and take advantage of the state they are in trying to grow and sustain their businesses. There is a distinction that must be acknowledged. In the In what we are referring to the "Leadership Business," there are distinctions. Just to name a few, there are business coaches, leadership coaches, and executive coaches, and also to add all the speakers. I will agree that from my focus of leadership coaching, I see leadership coaches who never led anyone ever, but this article paints me into the same corner with them, which led me to writing this response.
I agree that there exists a dilution of the quality and experience of coaches and speakers. There are charismatic people who are smart enough to learn concepts and fake that they come from a place of credibility. Even I am targeted by these people. I would encourage all people who look to engage coaches and speakers to do their homework when considering their services, but not dismiss the benefits of the industry as this article encourages, and understand the difference between the focused services, such as the difference between leadership coaching and business coaching.
Steve Tobak goes on to states how there has been an increase of self employed CEOs and business leaders.
This is very easy to answer: Those are the people who don't trust others to lead them anymore. They suffered under poor leadership in the past and have decided to go it alone. Trust has been broken in this country. There are too few of CEOs who are worthy of being trusted to the extent that would allow them to generate the kind of loyalty that once existed. I go back to the core reason why the "Leadership Business" has grown. When there is a void, others will seek to fill it. There is a great void in leadership, and the self employed would rather fill the void of lack of trust by trusting themselves. This is where we need to rebirth of moral leaders in business to start earning the trust that was once lost, so the growth in workforce can grow again.
Later, Steve references a book written by a business professor named Jeffrey Pfeffer. He goes on to state that Pfeffer's book, “Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time,” states that the leadership industry has done little for the careers of executives.
First, I would like to point out that Tobak criticized academics, along with bloggers and coaches who rarely have run a business or led a real company. He's referencing the research of a business academic to support the argument that the "Leadership Business" is failing to produce.
I will admit I have not yet read Pfeffer's book, but there is clearly something amiss when there is a book claiming failure and there are other studies that claim the opposite like the MetrixGlobal Research of Fortune 500 Companies. Their study states the return on investment for companies that invested in coaching was an average of $7.90 for every $1 invested. You can always question the sampled population for any research to try to poke holes in arguments. I'm not going to do that, especially when I have not read the Pfeffer's book. What I will comment on, however, is that success when engaging in leadership coaching depends equally on the client's commitment to coaching in relation to the quality of the coach. It is not like you can invest in coaching and it will just work for you. I screen my clients in an attempt to measure their commitment. I never want to work with people who are not ready to put in the time and effort required.
In today's society, everyone needs leadership development. Just look around at the world. But I and my colleagues can't fix greed and corruption. We can only try to out number it with the clients we work with. That's why I target the moral and those who are committed to being more effective leaders. Their are coaches with reputations who will attempt to help the less committed and will not find success in helping them, and it's those who can easily be counted as not finding adequate career advancement from the "Leadership Business."
I will say this to anyone. If your reason for looking into the "Leadership Business" is primarily for your career advancement, you may want to wait until you are really ready to lead. Great leaders serve their people. They put their people first. Your people will not trust you and follow you until they know you care. Oh, they may follow orders because you are their boss, but they will not take initiative and go the extra mile until they trust you and know you have their best interests in mind.
Tobak later asks: "What in the world makes us think we can control how our companies work if we can't control how how any other organization of two or more people functions?" (referencing marriage)
He is basically stating that our expectations are too high for our managers and business owners. He argues that we can't control our businesses. I would agree and take it a step further. We can't control anything except our thoughts, words, and actions. If you want to effectively run and grow a business, you must build your influence, not your control. If control is what you seek, you will struggle. You will be a glorified micro-manager. Business is not about controlling people. It's about leading them in a collective effort toward a common purpose. When you try to control that, you are more likely going to fall short of your objectives, because you can't keep your best people who might be leaders themselves. True leaders will not work for a control freak, nor a micro-manager.
I won't break down every word of his article, but I will summarize that every industry has its pros and cons. I mean look at all the corrupt CEOs and business owners who contributed to the economy collapsing in 2008. I will not deny that there are those in the "Leadership Business" who are great marketers who have nothing more to offer beyond re-purposed content that they sell to the ambitious entrepreneur trying to successfully grow their business. But I would also say that there has been such a void in leadership for far too long in this country that you can't fault business minded people for targeting that void. And you can't paint those, like myself, into a corner who see the path American society is on and have a purpose to change it for the better.
Tobak has implied that the "Leadership Business" is overrun with amateurs. Though there are some, I say to anyone exploring an investment in the "Leadership Business" should do their homework and gauge their level of commitment. You will get what you paid for in the "Leadership Business."
I am being honest when I say that I pray that there will come a day when the "Leadership Business" is not needed. That one day we have a society populated with true leaders who are not defined by their titles or income. When that day comes, I'll find something else to do. I'll find a new purpose. But until that day, I will be right here targeting entrepreneurs and small business owners protecting America's future.
Agoge Leadership Development LLC
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