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The End of Leadership Hardcover – April 3, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“In this wide-ranging critique, Kellerman enumerates the numerous contradictions, inconsistencies, and irrelevance of what passes for leadership thought and training today. Before you purchase or attend any of what the multi-billion dollar leadership industry is selling, read this book!” (Jeffrey Pfeffer, Thomas D. Dee II Professor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and author of Power: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don't)

“Barbara Kellerman does not play nicely with the other boys and girls-and we are all the better for it. Anyone interested in a penetrating critique of the leadership industry should read this provocative new book from our foremost leadership contrarian.” (Robert Kegan, Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, Harvard University Graduate School of Education)

“In this compelling book, Kellerman brings critical new insights to longstanding questions about the importance of leaders….essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of leadership both in theory and practice.” (Deborah Rhode, Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law and Director of the Center on the Legal Profession, Stanford Law School)

“After pioneering work on followership and bad leadership, now Kellerman provocatively dissects what she calls the leadership industry. She offers suggestions on how to think far bigger and more expansively if we are to cope with leading in a global information age.” (Joseph S. Nye, Jr., University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard and author of The Future of Power)

“A timely, considered and comprehensive examination of how leadership has changed and how and why we lost faith in leaders; how the leadership industry went wrong - and the steps needed to put it right” (Rob Goffee, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, London Business School)

“‘Mind the Gap’ could be the subtitle of Kellerman’s disturbingly honest and indispensable book. The ‘gap’ Kellerman urges us to mind is the hoary disconnect between what the leadership industry produces about best practices and what leaders who read our books actually practice.” (Warren Bennis, University Professor, University of Southern California and author of Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership)

“Kellerman’s honest and astute critique makes it clear that the gurus in her own field have work to do if they want to remain relevant.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A well-written chronicle of the evolution and devolution of the leadership profession and a substantiated indictment of the leadership development industry.Essential. (Choice Reviews Online)

From the Back Cover

One of our foremost leadership experts dismantles obsolete assumptions and stimulates a new conversation about leadership in the twenty-first century.

Becoming a leader has become a mantra. The explosive growth of the "leadership industry" is based on the belief that leading is a path to power and money, a medium for achievement, and a mechanism for creating change. But there are other, parallel truths: that leaders of every stripe are in disrepute; that the tireless and often superficial teaching of leadership has brought us no closer to nirvana; and that followers nearly everywhere have become, on the one hand, disappointed and disillusioned, and, on the other, entitled and emboldened.

The End of Leadership tells two tales. The first is about change—about how and why leadership and followership have changed over time, especially in the last forty years. As a result of cultural evolution and technological revolution, the balance of power between leaders and followers has shifted—with leaders becoming weaker and followers stronger.

The second narrative is about the leadership industry itself. In this provocative and critical volume, Barbara Kellerman raises questions about leadership as both a scholarly pursuit and a set of practical skills: Does the industry do what it claims to do—grow leaders? Does the research justify the undertaking? Do we adequately measure the results of our efforts? Are leaders as all-important as we think they are? What about followers? Isn't teaching good followership as important now as teaching good leadership? Finally, Kellerman asks: Given the precipitous decline of leaders in the estimation of their followers, are there alternatives to the existing models—ways of teaching leadership that take into account the vicissitudes of the twenty-first century?

The End of Leadership takes on all these questions and then some—making it necessary reading for business, political, and community leaders alike.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; unknown edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062069160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062069160
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Kellerman is the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was the Founding Executive Director of the Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership, from 2000 to 2003; and from 2003 to 2006 she served as the Center's Research Director. Kellerman has held professorships at Fordham, Tufts, Fairleigh Dickinson, George Washington, and Uppsala Universities. She also served as Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Fairleigh Dickinson, and as Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Leadership at the Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland.

Kellerman received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, and her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. (1975, in Political Science) degrees from Yale University. She was awarded a Danforth Fellowship and three Fulbright fellowships. At Uppsala (1996-97), she held the Fulbright Chair in American Studies. Kellerman was cofounder of the International Leadership Association (ILA), and is author and editor of many books including Leadership: Multidisciplinary Perspectives; The Political Presidency: Practice of Leadership; and Reinventing Leadership: Making the Connection Between Politics and Business. She has appeared often on media outlets such as CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, NPR, Reuters and BBC, and has contributed articles and reviews to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Harvard Business Review.

Her most recent books are Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (2004); a co-edited (with Deborah Rhode) volume, Women & Leadership: State of Play and Strategies for Change (2007); and Followership: How Followers are Creating Change and Changing Leaders (2008). Kellerman speaks to audiences around the world, including in recent years Berlin, London, Moscow, Rome, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, Zurich, Jerusalem, Turin, Toronto, and Montreal. She is on the Advisory Board of the Leadership Research Network, on the Advisory Panel of the White House Leadership Project Report, on the editorial Board of Leadership Quarterly, and on the Publications Committee of the International Leadership Association. She is ranked by Forbes.com as among "Top 50 Business Thinkers" (2009) and by Leadership Excellence in top 15 of 100 "best minds on leadership." Her next book, Leadership: Essential Selections on Power, Authority, and Influence, will be published in March 2010 by McGraw-Hill.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Leaders of every sort are in disrepute, the extensive activities of the leadership teaching industry have not caused improvement in the average quality of leadership, we still do not have a very clear understanding of how to grow good leaders or stop bad ones, and disillusioned followers are growing entitled, emboldened and empowered, according to Barbara Kellerman in this book.

The first six of the eight chapters of the book give an historical perspective explaining how and why the extent of powers enjoyed by leaders have been diminishing. Confucius's ideal leader was a "gentleman"; Plato's ideal was a philosopher-king. In the Middle Ages, royalty ruled on earth and God, through the Catholic Church, ruled the kingdom of heaven. The introduction of printing technology enabled Martin Luther to challenge the authority of the Catholic Church, and since then the absolute powers of leaders have been receding, as followers have become more empowered to communicate with each other and co-operate to resist tyranny.

In the workplace, concepts such as bottom-up control, employee activism and corporate democracy started coming into vogue in the 1970s. Command-and-control management theory gave way to cooperation and collaboration. Chief executives became servant-leaders and team players. The personal lives of prominent leaders are now examined publicly, and through social media leaders are subjected to streams of criticism and vitriol. The leader's ability to control his or her environment has largely disappeared as the result of advances in communication technology.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In The End of Leadership Harvard's Barbara Kellerman, author of more than a dozen books on the topic and thus a leader in the "leadership" industry, provides a highly readable description of the world in which leaders must operate today. The rise of the internet and its social media applications have resulted in a vast expansion in the number of participants in, and globalized the conversation about the leaders of the world's economic and political institutions. Their actions are now subjected to more inclusive and extreme scrutiny than ever before, as demonstrated time and again by the "smart-mobs," or perhaps more accurately, "smart lynch mobs" of the blogosphere. This phenomenon, richly documented in the early chapters, has accelerated an historical trend in which followers have gained--and leaders have lost--institutional power. Leaders face more resistance now than ever before. Their shortcomings, while not new, are surely more visible now than ever before.

Having established this context, she launches a criticism of the whole leadership training and development industry. In a nutshell, as she states in the introduction, "the leadership industry has not in any major, measurable way improved the human condition." (p. xiv) This is (or should be) embarrassing to the industry, inasmuch as billions upon billions of dollars have been spent over the past forty years on leadership training. In explaining this failure, she criticizes the industry for its apparent lack of scientific depth, its eclecticism, its shortage of performance metrics, and an apparent preference for one-size-fits-all approaches to leadership training. In the process, she presents many entertaining, informative vignettes.
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Format: Hardcover
Barbara Kellerman, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, gives her own "leadership industry" a kick in the pants. As the power of leaders in the world lessens and followers gain more leverage, MBA programs, professional executive education, private leadership development practitioners, and even vaunted internal industry programs all seem to fall short. Kellerman traces the history of leadership, from Confucius and Plato, to Machiavelli and Hobbs, to Locke and Jefferson, to Goldman and GE. She describes the downgrading of leadership regarding the presidency (whether a Democrat or a Republican), in Congress and among corporate leaders, as well as the decline of power and leadership in social institutions like the Catholic Church. Kellerman argues that the social contract between leaders (expected to be ethical and effective) and followers (becoming more demanding and powerful) has been broken. A well written, reflective treatise on the "leadership industry," in which Kellerman is surely a key player, this book is bracing but ultimately stimulating, like a cold shower!
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Format: Hardcover
First, Kellerman spends over 150 pages painstakingly detailing the pat history of the world just to make one simple point; that human civilizations are becoming more democratic and so leaders are less important than they were in totalitarian regimes. DUH! I thumbed through most of it. I didn't see any reference to pre-agrarian and modern tribal people and how they view leadership, which might have actually been interesting. The point could have been made in 5 pages. No need to show off all that fancy Harvard-level research.

When she finally gets to the points she is trying to make they aren't that impressive. They're right, but they're not impressive. In fact, they're incredibly obvious to most people in the leadership industry. She doesn't even go into them in detail, she just makes the points, repeats them a few times, and then, in the very last paragraph in the book, gives scant, mostly unhelpful suggestions to the leadership industry as a whole. She doesn't go into any detail on specific leadership courses, theories, or possible solutions. The book was mostly disappointing, even though I agree with her points, which is sad. To save you the money and time here are the points (not copied word-for-word out of the book)

1. There is no scientific proof that leadership can be learned or that leadership training has positive long-term results.
2. There is a lack of consensus on what leadership is or a basic curriculum to learn it.
3. Corporate and Government leaders are now less trusted than they were before leadership training became popular and unethical behaviour is rampant.
4. The emphasis on leadership leaves out/devalues the important skills of following well, not following bad leaders, cooperating on an equal level, and working alone.
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