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Over-Dosed on C-Suite Superficiality

Today, there is a crisis of leadership integrity that is widely discussed and documented, but there is little being done about it.  In fact, one of the biggest stories written in the last four years is the lack of consequence for Boards and C-Suites (offices of the corporate Chief executives) that have behaved in a sociopathic fashion.

When the early luminaries of the field variously called “organizational effectiveness” (OE) or “organizational development” (OD) or “leadership development” (LD) initially asserted themselves, they were action researchers, developing their concepts for assessing organizational effectiveness and for improving the effectiveness of organizations.  Greater organizational effectiveness was a good investment, it was reasoned. Constructive impertinence was their brilliance brand, and they focused on business and military organizations with certain righteousness.  Among those who articulated OE/OD/LD thinking were Chris Argyris (double-loop learning and organizational learning), Len Nadler (mentoring, work styles and lifestyles), and Warren Bennis (ethical influencing, and change leadership). They were not intending to serve a sort of impermanent Lego Capitalism.

Their perspective was highly responsible: To influence C-Suites and entire organizations to consciously maintain core civil values as the lodgepole of any organization’s effectiveness. Core civil values were regarded as the responsibility of the leaders of the organization. Leaders, it was held, had a serious responsibility to civilization and the community, and shareholders would profit from this. The corrupting theory that shareholder value was paramount did not occur until the 1980s, as MBA programs proliferated.

But the challenge of upholding core civil values paled in the competition with personal wealth building — an intrigue that increasingly infected corporate C-Suites and Corporate Boardrooms.

That the field of OE/OD/LD changed significantly in the last 30-years is obvious. It was one of the few developments where the C-Suite did not demand more. The field failed at its original noble goal, overdosing instead of subordination and addiction to the “group process.”

The process of superficiality and greed-socialization implied by the widening pay gap between the average CEO compensation and the average hourly worker wages has informed the growth of anxiety, fear, and mediocrity in organizations. This is widely known, but it has not appeared to inspire an effective reaction from the OE/OD/LD field.

To be effective, the practitioners of organizational effectiveness, organizational development, and leadership development must become:

  • More strategically related to the growth and success of the organization.
  • Less oriented to tactics, manipulation and intervention process.
  • More responsible for core civil values of the C-Suite, the organization, and Civilization.
  • Higher profile – less contract and project-oriented – more mission-oriented.
  • Less a subsidiary of HR.
  • More of a Conscience of the Corporation.
  • More tested for budget and technique.
  • More accountable for courage and moral imperative.

OE/OD/LD has not had its intended impact – and in essence, the impact has not been strategic and lasting.  In the process, billions of dollars have been wasted. It is not likely that this will change for the better without persistent and brilliant change within the community.  It’s time for the practitioners of organizational effectiveness, organizational development, and leadership development to transform — becoming conscious, brilliant and persistent in finding ways to achieve the goal of effecting this change, transforming the quality of leadership, innovation, and culture of American organizations.

If you think this crisis will pass like a Veterans’ Day Parade where you watch and thank God you are not marching, think again! If you don’t understand your stake in this opportunity, call me. Let’s have a conversation.