The Cult of the Leader – Christopher Bones

The one-sentence summary

We need to reassess the concept of talent, change executive remuneration and performance management, and redefine what it means to be an effective leader.


  • Modern business is obsessed with leaders, but although everyone talks about leadership, its real meaning is becoming more and more obscure.
  • Today we define leaders more by how they seem, rather than the quality of their judgement or what they are able to do.
  • The net result has been a failure of leadership precisely when we need all the good leaders we can find – in business and life generally.
  • We urgently need to rethink the role of leadership to rebuild trust and confidence. That means redefining the talent and revaluing the experience and remuneration associated with the roles.
  • The L’Oreal generation are obsessed with rewarding themselves ‘because they’re worth it’, and that includes leaders who feel they are owed a significant living and the lifestyle to go with it.
  • The modern leader is egoistic, blind to their own faults, surrounded by people created in their own image, and committed to actions that enhance their self-image.


  • The leadership advice industry is worth over $10bn in the USA alone.
  • Leadership and management are not the same thing, but they are usually confused – most of what’s involved in managing companies is nothing to do with leadership.
  • There is a damning list of what leaders do wrong: abuse of power, inflicting damage on others, over-exercise of control to satisfy personal needs, rule breaking, and more. Types of failure include:
  • Leaders not fitting (their values do not correspond to the organisation)
  • Companies changing (the challenge is too big)
  • Companies failing entirely (accepted norms of behaviour undermine the creation of value)
  • Moral authority comes from being authentic, demonstrating integrity, having self-belief, showing self-awareness, and demonstrating deep understanding of the business.
  • The author believes we need to reassess the concept of talent to make it inclusive; change executive remuneration and performance management; and redefine what it means to be an effective leader to make it more collaborative.


  • The proposed changes would require changes to the law and the majority of ambitious leaders to stop being greedy. Is this ever possible?

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