Great question John. ...here are some initial thoughts. When I joined the corporate world in the 70’s the emphasis was just shifting from management to leadership training. Corporations were floundering, attempting to deal with the early stages of globalization, rapid technological change, diversity and the need for faster response times in everything from manufacturing to product development. They needed help and thought part of the answer was changing managers into leaders who would envision and lead them to a brighter future. 30+ years later, leaders have not been the “John Wayne” to organizations in distress...What if we confused the need for planning & vision with the need for leaders? What if our belief that nothing good happens without a leader blinds us to our ability to co-create & self-organize? What if leadership is a Newtonian concept in a Quantum world?
Perhaps our fondness for heroes predisposes us to want leaders, someone who will save the day. In pyramidal organizations that may be how it has to work. However, as new forms of organization emerge we see other possibilities. For example, one of W.L. Gore's suppliers said "Gore might just as well be known for the visionaries and thought leaders that comprise its employee roster." Notice they didn't say top leadership because there isn't a pyramid at W.L. Gore.
If leadership sucks, maybe it is because we're ready for more: more meaning, more challenge, better environments, interesting work, balance in life. We're ready to be co-creators.
As we step up and learn to co-create the world we want to live in, the focus on leadership will fade, replaced by conversations on how employees can move around to stay interested, what does it look like to self-organize, are we good stewards of our environment and community, how does everyone share in profit, and so on. Conversations about leadership will feel like beating a dead horse.