I'm the first to say that we've hit peak jargon related to leadership, but I genuinely have had a nearly 180-degree experience from what this article espouses. After many years of experiencing the full spectrum of leadership (really good to really, really bad), I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it absolutely matters in a profound way. Leadership's presence in a team (or lack thereof) sets the tone for how people work, how they think about work and how they work with others. I've just seen it too many times in actual practice and while I often shudder at leadership catch-phrases, the impact and importance is real
I also have come to believe that culture is not the outcome of success (see: Uber). I've seen great teams build do great work firsthand - only to have a problematic culture slowly erode all that was built. And while I'm uncertain if success and culture are 100% directly related, I can say that a good culture creates an environment that's much more disposed to long-term success. Culture won't fix a lack of talent, but it can definitely bring out more in people as well as create an inviting space to more easily recruit high-level talent.
Don't let the cliché word-babble cause cynicism of the fundamental importance of strong leadership and a team culture that sets people up for success. The words will come and go, but those pillars won't.
I agree with a big part of your statement, except that it still seems to assume that good leadership is about success in the end. I think we often forget that leadership can be about creating a good environment for people to enjoy working in. That is something you can have influence on to a certain degree. Success, for so many reasons, is mostly out of our control. So yes, leadership is important, but not for the reason you might think it is. We just seem to keep telling ourselves this because business success is the only metric we keep using, and I think that’s wrong. Being mildly successful or unsuccessful is far more likely to happen, but you can do it in a way that still inspires people to come to work every day. That, to me, is the real goal of leadership.
For years, huge corporate jargons have been smeared all over design scene which I find it extremely toxic. I wish people would have focused on actually designing instead of a leading bunch of herds. telling bedtime stories while checking the weights of two invisible oranges in their hands.