Chapter Eleven

Why Do We Tolerate Bad Leaders?

Magnificent Uncertitude, Anxiety, and Meaning

Jean Limpan-Blumen

To peruse Warren Bennis's remarkable oeuvre is to explore an encyclopedia of leadership. Themes are introduced and developed, then recur later more richly embellished with nuance and depth. Here, I shall select just a few of Bennis's recurring motifs—uncertainty, democratic institutions, and the limitations of leaders—to explore a frequently ignored question that bears directly on the quality of future organizations: Why do we so frequently tolerate poor, even evil, leaders? I shall use another concept—anxiety—as the needle to stitch together these seemingly unrelated themes.

Many authors examine leadership in terms of the rapidly ...

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