When Leaders Disengage

In 2012, almost half of the 279 students in a course at Harvard University were under investigation for allegedly collaborating on a take-home final. Eventually approximately 70 students were forced to withdraw for a year. Commentaries have named the usual suspects: the uber-competitive culture of the Ivy league, the ease of cut-and-paste in the Internet generation, the lack of solid ethics instruction at universities.

One other theory is making the rounds - disengaged students and uncaring professors. In 1998, a self-described con-man named Bob Corbett (not pictured!) published a tongue-in-cheek guide called, "The Cheater's Handbook: The Naughty Student's Bible." While it was filled with tips such as how to make crib sheets, dig up old exams, and pay someone to take Advanced Placement tests, the dedication in the book was telling.

Corbett dedicated his book to his 11th grade English teacher, who "did such a wonderfully engaging job that he destroyed any shred of desire I may ever have had to cheat in English thereafter. If all teachers brought such passionate energy to their classrooms, perhaps this book would become obsolete."

In a survey of uboredndergraduates at UNLV, researchers found that students' perceptions of instructors' engagement was the factor most likely to affect cheating. In fact, the professor in the Harvard scandal was notoriously disengaged, telling his students up front that he would be giving out 120 A's and didn't care if the students showed up for the lectures or discussion groups.

What about the workplace? Is a disengaged leader who focuses solely on outcomes and not the people that are getting those outcomes ​more likely to have a team that takes shortcuts, overlooks details, and refrains from doing the hard work that produces lasting results?

True leaders are those attuned to working in partnership with individuals - and communities in which they live - in order to improve human thriving.

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