Leadership is bogus.  You know it.  I know it.

No, no.  Not actually leading people.  Leading people is great.  Churchill, etc.  That’s great.

Teaching leadership is bogus.  It’s done in a million different ways.  Mainly it’s psychobabble for big boys in beauteous locales.

And it’s really, really, really, reallllllly lucrative.  Like, read The Economist magazine and you’ll see these two-page amazing ads for Give us thirty thousands dollars for three days in Majorca and we’ll send you back a leader … And you think huh?  What dumbshit corporation pays for that?

But okay.  I mean, Goldman Sachs makes all kinds of money, and they’re a private firm, so okay.

[Update:  Marilyn, a reader, points out that Goldman is publicly held.]


When the federal government’s paying for it, though, it’s a little annoying, isn’t it?  Isn’t it just a slight piss-off to realize that your taxes are paying for…

Well, let’s get precise, shall we?  How much does the federal government ask us to pay in order to turn some of its higher ranking civil  servants into (drum roll) leaders?


As always, Senator Grassley, head of the Where Do Your Taxes Go committee, has been looking into the matter. He is rather staggered by what he has found.  He has written some letters to people who run organizations that charge the federal government for leadership seminars.  He has asked them to explain their charges.  Here are some of those organizations.

The Center for Creative Leadership doesn’t just have a great name.  It’s located on ONE LEADERSHIP PLACE, Greensboro, North Carolina.  Its street is a leader. This alone perhaps warrants a certain premium for leadership trainees who, even as their rented cars pull up to CCL headquarters, can sense that the very ground upon which they motor is imbued with leadership.

A five-day leadership course at the CCL will cost you between $6200 and $10,600.

This puts those three-day Harvard alumni boat trips down the Nile to shame, kiddies.

And speaking of Harvard, let’s look at what the Kennedy School is charging these days for their Senior Executive whatever — all of it paid by the government.  The school has just raised the tuition.  It now costs almost $20,000 for four weeks of what must be one HELL of a leadership initiation.  Some really amazing shit must be going down, like say very ancient and secret mystical leadership rituals.  We’ll see.

The costs for this and similar four-week courses offered by other outfits the Office of Personnel Management uses are 460% higher than all costs for one month at an average private American university.

Public university?  1000% greater.

Senator Grassley has some questions for the Office of Personnel Management.  He notes the expansion of online university courses of all sorts and wonders why at least some portion of OPM-sponsored leadership training couldn’t get done more cheaply that way.  (As you know, UD reviles distance education, but given the largely bogus content of leadership studies, this technology would work beautifully.)  He also, of course, wants to know, as do we all, just what these people are learning.

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11 Responses to “The Leadership Racket”

  1. Norm Says:

    The US government actually teaches leadership: West Point, Naval Academy etc.
    Maybe we could get a deal if the employees went to these schools. (Maybe fewer would want to go.)
    Let’s save some money.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Excellent idea, Norm.

  3. Julia Says:

    There was a big dustup recently at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics when the top-level management, in the midst of laying off 200 nurses and other staff due to budget cuts, decided they need to spend $130,000 to send 35 staff members to the Disney Institute to learn how to improve patient satisfaction (I am not making this up).

    After a huge public outcry, they decided to spend 1/10th as much to bring two Disney leadership trainees to Iowa City instead. I just had a doctor’s appointment there this afternoon, and I didn’t notice any startling changes in how I was treated (to be fair, I’ve always had fine care at UIHC).

  4. theprofessor Says:

    I am ashamed to say that Gilligan has a degree in leadership. It is aimed at older students with a pile of miscellaneous credits from community colleges.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Julia: I think of Grassley’s committee, and of the national press, and of blogs like mine, and of commenters like you, as all part of a Great and Permanent Tamping Down activity, in which the constant tendency of people in groups to puff themselves up and try to get away with things is to some extent — maybe only to a small extent — interfered with.

  6. Marilyn Mann Says:

    Goldman is publicly held.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Marilyn: You know, I wondered about that as I wrote about Goldman. I sort of knew I might be wrong, but I didn’t know in what way I was wrong. Thank you.

  8. University Diaries » Leadership Racket II Says:

    […] has already examined the lucrative business of gathering corporate and government employees for a few days of leadership bullshit. It’s such an obvious scam that Senator Grassley, last year, asked a number of leadership […]

  9. David Says:

    Forgot to note in the previous post (The Leadership Racket) that the Center for Creative Leadership is a non-profit (5013C) educational institute just like GWU. So maybe the leadership racket is really not that different from, say, The English Racket?

  10. Margaret Soltan Says:

    David: Everything depends on what gets taught there.

  11. University Diaries » “B-schools offer [ethics courses] as electives, which is always just window dressing. Ethics has never gained any traction at business schools. I doubt that you would see evidence of them teaching about how income inequali Says:

    […] A five-day leadership course at the CCL will cost you between $6200 and $10,600. […]

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