A general theme of my reflections was that assuming the role turned out to be an eye-opening experience. Leadership is seldom quite as we envisage it.
This, I think, is one of the main challenges facing leaders in any organisation today: expectation and reality frequently prove to be no mean distance apart. I have become especially aware of this issue over the years, not just because I have confronted it on a personal level but because I have seen how it affects business school students – the would-be leaders of the future – all too frequently.
The trouble is that we tend to look at the world in a very simplistic way. Willie Sutton, a legendary hold-up man who bagged around $2m between the late 1920s and his final arrest in 1952, allegedly remarked when asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” Do leaders still have a similarly one-dimensional view of a life of riches, status and power?
Let us hope not, because they are liable to find themselves mistaken. No-one should be faulted for aiming high, but the truth, as we try to make plain to our students, is that even those who ascend to leadership roles are nowadays likely to discover precious little evidence of the clichés that shaped their lofty ambitions. The very nature of leadership is changing with astonishing rapidity, and leaders need to change at a comparably swift rate.