by Raffaella Sadun
There’s a view out there — call it the “superhero” theory of leadership — in which the individual vision, charisma, and brilliance of a CEO makes or breaks a company. That view is dangerous — not so much because CEOs don’t matter or that smarts and vision don’t help. It’s dangerous because of what it leaves out. Great leadership takes both generic skills and context-specific ones. The most effective leaders have knowledge and social skills that are specific to their company and industry that allow them to motivate other people in the organization to do what’s necessary to succeed.
It’s been a trying couple of weeks for management scholars. The FTX debacle is an almost unbelievable story of lack of controls — worse than Enron, according to the executive appointed to steward it through bankruptcy. Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover is equally vexing, from his chaotic approach to layoffs to his aimless product launches and retractions, to his incessant tweeting. And then of course there’s the conclusion to the Theranos story, with Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years in prison.