You raise a really important and thought provoking question. Why don’t we have better leaders? I have a couple of responses to that question.
First, I think that leadership ability is the product of human behavior and therefore is likely distributed throughout our population on a bell shaped curve. There are some really great leaders, a whole bunch of average leaders and some really horrible leaders.
The trouble is that leadership doesn’t exist in the absence of human nature. Take nutrition as a parallel. We know a great deal about nutrition and how to eat well. Volumes of scientific research has been done, countless books have been published, and yet we are still an obese country. Knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it are two very distinct things.
This brings me to my second point. I think that leadership gap you talk about isn’t really a leadership gap at all. It is a gap in some underlying, critically important attributes that manifest into what you describe as poor leadership. I’ll take integrity as examples since you used those in your definition. The lack of integrity starts long before someone either becomes or is chosen as a leader. If you don’t have the strength of character to do the right thing in the face of strong opposition or temptation, all of the leadership books in the world aren’t going to make you a great leader. Just as it is with nutrition. If you lack the self-discipline to stick to a plan, having the knowledge of the perfect diet is useless.
So, what does this mean to us? I’m not sure that confronting bad leadership is the answer. I think that cultivating, identifying, modeling and promoting good leadership will get us further down the road. The leaders in power today have been self affirmed along every step of their career. Trying to change them is tough. Instead, let’s build great leaders from the start. Let’s be the model for what responsible leadership is all about.