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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Lessons from the Field: An Essay on the Crisis of Leadership in Contemporary Organizations

A consensus is emerging that contemporary organizations are in critical need of leadership with compelling vision. Often this leads to an overemphasis on the personality or character of the leader. Although people clearly need to coalesce around a shared purpose in today's organizations, the same conditions that make 'vision' so prominent also make the huge emphasis on the leader inappropriate. Increasingly complex, turbulent environments have made highly centralized, bureaucratic hierarchies obsolete, and require our understanding of effective leadership to shift from the leader alone to the context in which leadership can be exercised. People's heightened interdependence and need to exert authority and leadership at all levels call for a focus on systemic leadership capacity, for focusing only on top executives as the sole source of organizational leadership hinders the confrontation of the more troubling. Deeper problems contributing to the contemporary crisis in leadership. This article explon!s common themes in the organizational literature and discusses three books in depth (by Bennis, Gilmore, and Vaill) that point to the emerging understanding of the crisis of leadership among organizationtal scholars.