Ryan Caradonna and Jake Caines. Debunking the Leadership Myth: The Story of Conscious Leadership.


Ryan Caradonna and Jake Caines. Debunking the Leadership Myth: The Story of Conscious Leadership. Pennsylvania: 5I’s Publishing, 2012.

book coverIf you are in the leadership industry or just interested in the evolution of our practicing, developing and thinking about leadership, this will be an interesting book for you. It begins,

This book is written for leaders who are frustrated with the current state of leadership. It seems that leadership, as currently practiced, doesn’t matter. It isn’t powerful; it doesn’t make a difference, nor does it accomplish anything significant. (i)

Then they step into the mythmaking aspects of leadership by acknowledging the importance of impact and how we seem to be losing the capacity for the legendary of heroic leaders of paths. Already I would wonder about the degree to which they are relying on the myths about individuals and their leading. And they make me pause again with this list of what leaders ‘should” do:

  • Generate sustainable impact consistently
  • Create transformational, substantial change—in yourself and others
  • Perform at levels of excellence
  • Work more efficiently and effectively producing positive results in less time
  • Connect with and motivate people through meaningful relationship
  • Discover new ideas and breakthrough innovation
  • Challenge conventional boundaries and normal solutions
  • Develop other leaders (xii)

If you look carefully at this list you will see many familiar “commandments” of the traditional studies of leadership. And you will see the fundamental flaw that should be understood in a myth-busting treatise like this: these things are impacts or accomplishments of individuals and collectives; these things are the impacts of many individuals, not just those in formal leader roles.

So what is the myth? “Leadership is about what you should do.” And their truth is “Leadership is about who you could be.” (iv) Whoa! 180 degree turn! And at this point the authors start getting it right. They note that contexts change and so must effective leading. And they advocate a break from traditional leadership to conscious leadership.

“The focus of conscious leadership is not what a leader does but who a leader is.”

At this point it is beginning to be clear what the problem is. Putting a leader label on people does not make a leader. What makes a leader is individuals who step in and out of the role of leader. I think the authors know this. They show this by beginning with attending to beliefs, which effect behavior, with effects outcomes. But their work is still replete with shoulds, such as this set of elements necessary to navigating the leadership map:

  • Humility: You must admit that you are lost;
  • Self-awareness: You must identify your current location;
  • Confidence: You must move forward.

Each chapter has self-awareness and self-guided practices for readers to follow. These relate to identifying your own journey, your strengths, values and more. There is the 5i process in which you work with information, insights, ideation, innovation and impact. At the very least, here is a useful book to explore the subject leadership in terms of individuals and their practices.



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