In general, the corporate world needs its flamboyant visionaries and raging egomaniacs rather more than its humble leaders and corporate civil servants. Think of the people who have shaped the modern business landscape, and “faceless” and “humble” are not the first words that come to mind.
Be bold, not bland
Henry Ford was as close as you can get to being deranged without losing your liberty. John Patterson, the founder of National Cash Register and one of the greatest businessmen of the gilded age, once notified an employee that he was being sacked by setting fire to his desk. Thomas Watson, one of Patterson’s protégés and the founder of IBM, turned his company into a cult and himself into the object of collective worship. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both tightly wound empire-builders. Jack Welch and Lou Gerstner are anything but self-effacing. These are people who have created the future, rather than merely managing change, through the force of their personalities and the strength of their visions. George Bernard Shaw’s adage about progress depending on “the unreasonable man” applies just as much to business as to every other area of life, if not more.
The previous outbreak of the cult of facelessness was in the 1950s, when books such as “The Organisation Man” and “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” topped the bestseller list, and when two of America’s biggest firms, General Motors and General Electric, were both run by men named Charles Wilson. Today’s world is as different as possible from the one that produced organisation man: an unusual degree of turbulence requires unusual bosses, rather than steady-as-she-goes functionaries.
I wonder if this is the issue with P-12 school leadership. Are most of our school administrators just ‘steady-as-she-goes functionaries?’ Are they too bland, concerned more with not rocking the boat than they are with facilitating meaningful organizational change? Do we have too many managers and not enough visionaries? If so, is it possible to foster more visionary leaders within our current P-12 organizational and higher education preparation systems or is there no hope unless our systems change? Thoughts?