When we look around at the American elite, the people in charge of government, business, academia, and all our other major institutions -- senators, judges, CEOs, college presidents, and so forth -- we find that they come overwhelmingly either from the Ivy League and its peer institutions or from the service academies, especially West Point.
So I began to wonder, as I taught at Yale, what leadership really consists of.
What I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers.
Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things -- the leaders -- are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn't usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering.
We have a crisis of leadership in this country, in every institution. Not just in government.
For too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don't know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don't know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they're worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don't have are leaders.