I've witnessed excellent leadership during my career, and have consistently sought to emulate those leaders. I've studied the books, read the articles, talked the talk, and walked the walk. Over the years, I've developed what I think is a very good -- but not infallible -- sense of the qualities a good leader exhibits and possesses. And I've been surprised to see again and again that these qualities are often lacking among leaders in scholarly publishing.
On the business front, I've seen abusive leaders, deceptive leaders, and self-dealing leaders. These are obvious failures. But I've also seen incurious leaders, weak leaders, placating leaders, and aimless leaders. These failures are more subtle, especially when the leader has a likable personality and affect. These leaders can drift to the top of an organization and put the whole operation on their aimless lilypad, whiling away years splashing around and not making progress.
Unethical leaders are easier to spot once the scales fall from your eyes (nobody wants to believe it might be happening), but more difficult to deal with. Usually, by the time someone is consciously or unconsciously unethical, they are conniving enough to be dangerous, as well. They will go well out of bounds to protect themselves, even to the point of lying, manipulating information, or threatening reprisals. It takes true leadership from those around these people to extricate them quickly and cleanly. When more subtle failures of leadership are also on the pitch, strong-willed and unethical leaders can last a long time.
A recent video interview with Scott Galloway from NYU via Bloomberg.com bears watching if leadership is on your mind. Galloway is ruthless in his condemnation of the failures of leadership at Facebook, both regarding Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.
A recent Scholarly Kitchen guest post by Phaedra Cress is ostensibly about ethical flaws that have been allowed to flourish over the past many years, but is just as much about failures in leadership. Cress writes:
We want leadership by example, but we don’t always get it. And slowly, this has eroded many facets of publishing.
Leadership in scholarly and academic publishing is vital to its future. Weak leaders threaten its foundation. Ineffective leaders and non-strategic leaders are too common, in my experience. It's time for a leadership upgrade in general. We need to show the path forward. We are the industry on the information vanguard. We should be on the leadership vanguard, as well.