The Logic of Absurdity – and the puzzle of leadership irrelevance

“Leaders are often thought to be instrumental to the performance of the organizations they lead. However, considerable research suggests that their influence over organizational performance might actually be minimal. These claims of leader irrelevance pose a puzzle: If leaders are relatively insignificant, why would someone commit to leading?”

Taking steps towards explaining the puzzle, Daniel Newark (Assistant Professor of Management and Human Resources at HEC [‘Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales’] Paris, France) introduces the idea of the ‘Logic of Absurdity’ in a new paper for the Academy of Management Review. The ‘Logic of Absurdity’ is, in essence :

“- a decision-making process that can sustain devoted leadership when leaders’ import is negligible. By acknowledging expected insignificance and meeting it with unmerited dedication, absurd leaders maintain their astuteness while tapping into the resilience and freedom of rationally unjustified choice. “

viz. by way of a summary of the current state of affairs :

“Scholars disagree about the fundamental influence and import of leaders. Some claim that their significance is sizable. And an abundance of books, articles, talks, and courses about leadership bolsters this view. Others claim that leaders hardly matter, deeming academics and quasi-academics who say otherwise peddlers of modern day alchemy, proffering fool’s gold to the organizational monarchy and all who wish to be crowned. And still others call for nuance and contingency, responding with a qualified, ‘it depends’.”

See: Leadership and the Logic of Absurdity in Academy of Management Review, pre-print online February 2, 2017

Bonus assignment [optional] : Working on the assumption that leaders can’t exist without followers, is the implication that followers also obey the Logic of Absurdity?

Also see : The Mathematics of Mediocracy