I recently attended a brief presentation of some extensive academic research into leadership performance. Leadership here referred to the contribution of the organization's ‘top man’ or ‘top woman’. So far as I could judge, the research had been carried out impeccably in terms of established academic rigour. But, in abstracting from the complex reality of organizational life on which the research was supposedly focused, the subsequent conclusions were, to my mind, seriously flawed.
The research sought to draw causal links between the backgrounds of those in the most senior leadership positions and the comparative success of their organizations, as defined in the research. The central proposition was that those whose backgrounds satisfied the particular criterion identified in the research would make the best leaders. Simple.
But none of this took account of the complex social dynamics of organization through which "success" - and indeed "leadership" - emerges in practice.