Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Gautam Mukunda leads off his new book, Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, with the results of social science research that executives may wish not to consider: individual leaders rarely make a difference.
Although many heads of organizations would like to think of themselves as truly indispensable—impact makers, history movers, culture changers—few reach the bar set by Steve Jobs, Napoleon, or Martin Luther King Jr., Mukunda says. (Even some people you might think would be shoo-ins for the indispensable category don’t make Mukunda’s cut, including Thomas Jefferson and Jack Welch. More on them later.)
Under most circumstances, a leader is elected or appointed. And it makes no difference who ends up in power so long as the person is experienced and is hired through the structured processes that most organizations use to vet everyone from CEOs to military officers to presidential candidates, Mukunda says.
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