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Where Have All the Good Leaders Gone?

In recent years, the question, "Where have all the good leaders gone?" has become more of an outcry than a rhetorical query. Between reports of toxic work cultures, high-profile ethical failures, and an overall sense of disengagement, it seems as though strong leadership is in short supply. So what's going on, and how can we fill the void?

The Changing Leadership Landscape

It's crucial to acknowledge that the landscape of leadership has shifted dramatically. We're no longer in an era where authoritarian rule garners respect or delivers results. The workforce has evolved, and with it, the criteria for effective leadership have changed. This new landscape demands agility, emotional intelligence, and a human-first approach. Unfortunately, many leaders haven't adapted, leading to a noticeable gap in quality leadership.

Disconnected Leaders, Disengaged Teams

One significant symptom of this leadership crisis is widespread employee disengagement. According to Gallup, a staggering 85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. When leaders are out of touch with their team members, it creates an environment where people feel unvalued and uninspired. This lack of engagement isn't merely a soft issue; it impacts productivity, employee retention, and ultimately, the bottom line.

The Influence of Technology

With technological advancements, the very nature of work has been redefined, thus changing the dynamics of leadership. However, instead of embracing this shift, some leaders have allowed technology to create a barrier between them and their teams. Emails and virtual meetings have replaced face-to-face interactions, causing a decay in authentic relationships. While technology should enable better leadership, it often has the opposite effect when not wielded wisely.

Leadership and Ethical Lapses

The media regularly highlights leadership failures characterized by ethical lapses or corrupt practices. From corporate fraud to harassment, the impacts of poor leadership are far-reaching and destructive. Such failures reflect a lack of essential leadership qualities like integrity, accountability, and empathy. These incidents don't just erode public trust; they also contribute to the narrative that good leaders are a dying breed.

The Need for Self-Awareness

Many leaders operate under the illusion that their methods are effective simply because they've climbed the corporate ladder. However, high-ranking positions don't necessarily correlate with high-quality leadership. Leaders must be willing to assess their impact critically and seek feedback to grow. Self-awareness is a cornerstone of effective leadership, yet it remains alarmingly rare.

Reclaiming Good Leadership

So where do we go from here? First, organizations need to invest in leadership development programs that focus on the human aspects of leadership, not just the tactical ones. Second, we must place a higher value on 'soft skills' like empathy, communication, and emotional intelligence. Finally, we need leaders who are genuinely committed to personal and professional growth, willing to adapt, and open to embracing the changes that have transformed the business landscape.

In a world where change is the only constant, clinging to outdated leadership styles and attitudes is a recipe for obsolescence. But despite the current scarcity, good leaders are not extinct; they're evolving. It's up to us—as leaders, mentors, and organizations—to foster this evolution. By doing so, we can bridge the leadership gap and reinvigorate our workplaces with leaders truly worth following.

Dr. Merrylue Martin is President and CEO of the Job Joy Group and best-selling author of the Big Quit Survival Guide. To learn more, visit and connect on LinkedIn.


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