Stanford Business School professor says many great leaders are inauthentic liars

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) professor Jeffrey Pfeffer has written a book attacking the industry devoted to management and leadership training, Stanford Business reported.

In his book,”Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time,” he assailed the leadership industry for spinning a false narrative about what truly makes a good leader.

“Leaders don’t need to be true to themselves; in fact, being authentic is the opposite of what they should do,” he writes.

He takes his argument a step further, explaining that lying is very useful to leaders and that manipulation “is a foundation of social power,” according to Stanford.

“There’s all this mythologizing that besets leadership, as people try to generalize and learn from exceptional cases,” he writes, according to Stanford.

“But that has resulted in this enormous disconnect between what actually makes individuals successful and what we think makes them successful.”

Pfeffer means that we often assume qualities or actions that successful leaders have exhibited once are essential in leadership, while ignoring some of the less palatable qualities that make leaders successful.

Further, the definition of a “successful leader” is fraught with ambiguity and depends on how one defines “success,” according to Pfeffer.

“One of the dilemmas in leadership is that the qualities and behaviours that make individuals successful in their careers — narcissism and self-aggrandizement, the ability to prevaricate with skill and without remorse, skill in acting and presenting oneself in ways that may not be how one is feeling at the time, among others — are qualities and behaviours that do not necessarily produce great group results or healthy workplaces,” he said in an interview with Forbes.

Pfeffer’s views contradict the conventional wisdom on what makes a successful leader. Honesty and concern with the group over personal interests are commonly lauded as the most important traits among leaders.

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