The Unicorns of Modern Management

The unicorn is a mythical creature, often used as a metaphor for things that doesn’t exist. There are a few myths the contemporary management consulting crowd has championed in recent years. These myths are like Unicorns of Utopia, galloping along on rainbows.

The belief in these happy beasts has grown within our organizations because well-intentioned experts have been trying to bring about massive social change by preaching a kinder, gentler form of management. But if we want to have a true understanding of what effective, successful leadership looks like in the clutch, we need to look anew at these animals in as sober a fashion as possible.

  1. Happy Unicorn #1: Leaders who are highly collaborative get better results than leaders who are less collaborative.
  2. Happy Unicorn #2: Any dilemma or crisis can be resolved through “win-win” thinking.
  3. Happy Unicorn #3: The successful leader has high character, while low-character leaders ultimately fail.
  4. Happy Unicorn #4: A happy, healthy person will make a great leader.

Summing-up: Far from the Utopian myths, leadership is more like a Faustian bargain. There are costs, generally costs that the management gurus won’t tell you about. But when one is liberated from the myths of the gurus, it’s possible to develop a pragmatic and ethical approach to leadership. Without the unicorns and rainbows.


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