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The Leadership Contract, 2nd Edition by Vince Molinaro

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Chapter 2What's Wrong with Leadership Today?

During the 2012 U.S. presidential race, the Republican Party attempted to paint a picture of Barack Obama as an ineffective leader who let down the American people. It did this by using the metaphor of an empty chair leader. Then the New Yorker picked up on the metaphor and ran a cover showing Republican candidate Mitt Romney at a presidential debate standing next to an empty chair. The cover struck a nerve with readers. E-mails flowed in. Some readers were outraged, believing the image to be disrespectful to the office of the president. Others were strongly supportive, believing it was time to call out poor leadership.

What was particularly telling about this cover was the strong reaction that readers of the New Yorker had to the metaphor of empty chair leadership. In fact, I believe it is a common human response. We all react viscerally when our leaders don't perform the way they should—when they don't fill their chairs effectively—and hold a title but don't really lead. We are filled with a sense of disappointment and even despair. In the worst cases, we become disillusioned.

We all hope to be great leaders, to be led by great leaders, and to be part of the great organizations that we collectively build. But too often our leaders let us down. Many fail to live up to the obligations of the role. If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that stories of great leaders leading great companies act as beacons of hope, but these stories ...

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