How failure is hijacking our leadership narrative


It’s within every leader’s reach to stop failure and dysfunction from hijacking narratives and shape organisational and national realities that bring out the best in ourselves.

It’s hard to find sources of inspiration in the news these days. Distressing examples of societal, political, organisational and individual dysfunction are abound and occur in almost every part of the globe including in our own country.

The realists amongst us would say that this is business as usual, that the human condition is prone to dysfunction and repeated failure. Human dysfunction is of course a complex matter and every example of dysfunction and failure is without doubt a matter of some complexity.

But dysfunction and failure especially amongst groups, organisations and institutions must also be seen as a matter of leadership, or more accurately: as an absence and failure of leadership.

The Harvard scholar Barbara Kellerman describes at least two kinds of situations when leadership goes “bad”: bad as in ineffective, where people in leadership roles are generally incompetent and are unable to produce desired change; and bad as in unethical. Our contemporary discourse is filled with examples of both kinds and it feels like stories and examples of dysfunction and failure have hijacked the leadership narrative.

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