On June 2nd, an Economist's Schumpeter blog posting The Angel and the Monster compared and then annointed Lady Gaga and Mother Teresa as "leadership icons."

The subtitle asked readers not to laugh, but it was hard not to, and a bit hard not to cringe as well. Many of the people who commented online expressed some outrage around the comparison, our culture of celebrity worship, and the "leadership industry" itself.

I have to agree, for a couple of reasons.

  • The comparison of Lady Gaga to Mother Teresa was weak, citing things like how they both changed their names, both comforted and identified with outsiders, and both built global brands and operations. 
  • Next to nothing in the posting spoke about how Lady Gaga actually leads her organization, but instead focused on how she's built her personal brand and connected with her fans. In my mind, that's not leadership, it's excellent marketing.
  • A focus on personal branding and charisma ignores so many other tools leaders use in the service of the people on their teams.  Lady Gaga may be an excellent leader, but how she is with her employees is invisible in the posting.
  • The piece also slams Jack Welch as "a hard, old fashioned boss" and suggests that modern workers "might not put up with him", but would love working for someone who wields charisma as well as Gaga.
I've made my affection for Jack Welch known in my post about his take on developing leadership skills, and I'll continue to describe him as a visionary who invested in, developed and yes, challenged his people to achieve as leaders themselves.

Bottom line? Don't send me any wav files of Jack singing... I'm listening to Lady Gaga on Pandora as I type. 

But, no, in spite of what I'd label a "Gaga for Gaga" case study by Jamie Anderson and Jörg Reckhenrich of Antwerp Management School and Martin Kupp of the European School of Management and Technology, I won't be signing up to hear her speak on leadership until the Economist publishes something that gets beyond charisma.

That's my rant for the day, it's time to get back to planning our Taste of BoatWorks leadership development program coming up in Annapolis on June 29th. If you'd like to see one of the ways Jack's company does leadership development and team building, I'd invite you to join us.

Taste of BoatWorks Sailors


GEL consultants are passionate about helping people become better leaders and inspiring teams to operate with clarity, accountability and velocity. We bring an in-depth knowledge of highperformance teamwork, deep facilitation skills and experiential learning expertise to provide unmatched off-sites for the C-Suite. Here’s where we discuss adventures in leadership.