The Road to Nowhere

Despite 100 years of research, academic papers, books, magazine articles, all imaginable types of training programs, etc., the focus on improving the behaviors of leaders, from CEO to supervisor, has been mostly a failure. From one generation to the next, leaders behave pretty much as they always have: however they want to, more or less. The result is Zombie Leadership (you must download and read this paper!).


Nobody is satisfied with Zombie Leadership, except leaders. But you can continue along this road to nowhere, or you can recognize the futility of this long effort and head in a new direction.

The consequence of Zombie Leadership is myriad mistakes in leading and managing people, the result of which is poor work, perpetual cost and schedule problems, rework, high costs, wasted resources, lawsuits from defective products or services, chronic workplace stress and unhappiness, ruined careers, employee turnover, and so on.

The focus on leaders’ behaviors, as well as their competencies, is merely a diversion from what is really going on. In the iceberg image above, leaders’ competencies and behaviors are what is readily visible to other people. That is the wrong place to look for solutions. What is going on below the surface is much harder to observe, but that is what really matters because it informs what we see and experience above the waterline.

You can try to flip the iceberg over to get a better look at what is really going on, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, you can put on your scuba gear and take a deep dive to see for yourself what the real problem is.

If what is below the waterline is wrong, infected, corrupt, rotten, or stale, it will determine the competencies and behaviors that everyone sees and experiences. Of course leaders, as they ascend the hierarchy, typically become more skilled at performing in ways that make their behaviors sometimes seem reasonable. And we generously give them allowances for misbehavior. All in all, not so bad, or so we think. That is why consultants, coaches, trainers, etc., remain committed to working above the waterline. For decades there has been a symbiotic relationship between those who sell these services and those who buy the services but have little real intention to improve their behaviors. Their combined efforts simply maintain the status quo of the Zombie Leadership that is so widely disliked.

Consultants, coaches, and trainers who lack awareness or who refuse to see what is below the waterline simply extends futility further into the future. For what? A booming, remunerative leadership consulting, coaching, or training business, while employees continue to suffer? There are lots of people in Lean world who do just that. But deep down, below the waterline, they likely know it is wrong even if that is what customers want. The bandwagon is easy to get on and hard to jump off.

I jumped off. I stopped doing this type of leadership training a decade ago because, as experience taught me, and as my work and research advanced, it was the road to nowhere. No below the waterline change, only above the waterline appearance of change.

You can do the long and hard work of figuring out what is going on below the waterline by deducing by what scores of leaders say, what they do, what they value, the decisions they make, what they ignore, what they respond to, and how they win and lose. But you probably do not have time for that. So, what can you do? Let someone do the work for you!

Guess what? I did the work for you. All you have to do is read one small 136-page book. So put on your scuba gear and take a deep dive below the waterline to explore leaders’ preconceptions and learn how these produce leaders’ beliefs, behaviors, and competencies. Stop keeping Zombie Leadership alive. Jump off the bandwagon and head in a new direction.

A Changed Perspective
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