Leadership & Dark Matter

Abstract: Leadership is a product of the dark matter in the world of organizations. Like the dark matter in the cosmos, leadership is hypothesized to exist, although its existence can, for the most part, only be inferred from actual observable conditions, events, and circumstances that include successful conclusion of “leadership events.” Thus, leadership actualizes as a transactional event that occurs between the leader and his or her colleagues. (Northouse, 2004, p. 3) Putting the point in a different frame, teams and team work (leadership events) are not just the best leadership strategy, they are the only leadership strategy available to us.


Hogan (2007, p. 35) tells us that the published literature on leadership is immense, actually overwhelming, and growing daily. New ideas and approaches are continuously coming into favor and some even sticking. Taking a fixed-time sample, as I did, runs a high risk of missing or simply ignoring what may be the best new knowledge or perhaps long-existing understanding that everyone but me knows and has already assimilated. It may be a lot like leadership itself, “Give it your best shot, hope for the best, and move on.”

Along with the sheer volume of audio, video, and written materials about leadership, those of us who consume large portions from the experience and wisdom of others are cautioned by Bennis & Nanus (2003, p.19) that books on leadership are often as majestically useless as they are pretentious, excluding those by Bennis & Nanus, one might presume. With this caution clearly in mind, I strive to be neither majestically useless nor pretentious but leave judgment about my success here to others. I paraphrase the lead of Sample (2002, p. 53) who advises that we should never become too dependent on practicing experts, taking care to maintain our intellectual independence, never kidding ourselves that expertise can be a substitute.

From the perspective of Kellerman (2012) Leadership Studies as a field has never been and is not now entirely respectable, at least not among traditional academics, who consider it more art than science, neither rigorous nor replicable, not a suitable subject for serious study. I include Kellerman’s point of view to remind us — you, the reader and me, the writer — not to take our shared enquiry too seriously, because many others will not.

I conclude here that Pellicer (2008, p. 13) is correct when suggesting that leadership mostly remains an intriguing mystery and likewise that Maeda & Bermot (2011) are on target when they suggest that what makes good leadership is a moving target. Nonetheless, I also agree with Jackson & Parry (2008, p. 14) when they point out that the significance of leadership should never be underestimated, and with Hackman & Johnson (2009, p. 33) who assure us that leadership is a fundamental element of the human condition, wherever society exists.

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