Book Synopsis + Discussion = A Substantive Session – (OD Network’s discussion of Leadership BS by Jeffery Pfeffer)

Organization Development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organizations “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge.
From the OD Network web site


Leadership BSLast night, I presented my synopsis of the book Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer to the members of OD Network in the Dallas/DFW area (OD – Organizational Development). Ed Savage, a true OD Professional, invited me, and then he designed a terrific, engaging follow-up discussion from the ideas in the book.

This was a pretty “pointed” program for this group. The book basically states that leaders are not being developed; that the entire leadership development/coaching/training/writing industry is not working, and practically something of a sham. After billions of dollars spent “developing” leaders, leaders are not really being developed; leaders are not better than they were.

We have a shortage of leaders. And this entire “Leadership Development” industry, of which OD is one part, has not produced the kinds of leaders needed in the modern business world.

From the book:

How can this be—all this failure—after the thousands of leadership books, talks, blogs, classes, and leadership-development programs seeking to make leaders more effective? How can this be, after more than a century of research seeking to figure out how to select better leaders? I’m going to tell you part of the story of how this can be and, more important, why things aren’t getting better and what might be done to make some improvements. 

The book is a tough read for anyone who thinks that we are doing a good job at developing leaders. Again, from the book:

But then came the insight: It is not just that all the efforts to develop better leaders, decades of such effort notwithstanding, have failed to make things appreciably better. I realized that much of what was and is going on almost certainly, although sometimes inadvertently and unintentionally, makes things much worse. 

In my synopsis, I included this:

The illusion of value
• The illusion of the value of Motivational Speaking
• The illusion of the value of Leadership Training efforts (conferences; 
• The illusion of the value of participant evaluations (they produce/reinforce 
the desire for “entertain me,” they do not actually “help me change.”

Here are a couple of observations from last night’s session:

#1 — This session re-affirmed my belief that a book synopsis is a genuinely substantive way to launch a conversation. Ed’s discussion questions, so very well prepared, would have made for a good discussion without the book synopsis preceding the discussion. But, the synopsis presentation clearly informed the discussions throughout the room in all of the small discussion groups (I know– I listened in, and participated…). There’s something about a book synopsis that gets the juices flowing.

#2 — There are serious professionals who are willing to face the difficult challenges that many prefer to avoid. This was such a group. These are serious people, wanting to get better at how they do their work.

So, a simple lesson for all of us: when you have a serious challenge, it will not go away, or be solved, if you ignore it. It’s time to face serious challenges seriously.

That’s what I observed happening last night at this gathering of OD professionals. They were doing an honest job at facing quite a challenging issue.

So, what issue do you need to face? I bet there is a book that raises just the right questions. Maybe a book synopsis + discussion follow-up is just what you need in your organization.


Here is my blog post with my lessons and takeaways from Leadership BS:  Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer – My Six Lessons and Takeaways.


If you are interested in Organizational Development, and are in the DFW area, this is a group you should check out.  They have meetings throughout the year. Here is their web site link: DFW Organizational Development Network.


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