The author of this book has written over 25 books on leadership, and here he tries to distill a lifetime of thought, practice, and study to produce an introduction to the subject.
This book is not and does not pretend to be comprehensive, but it is useful to students of the ever growing field of leadership studies and to practioners in a myriad of fields. While this book invokes Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, General "Black Jack Pershing, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, football star Jerry Rice, basketball star Jerry West, U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas, National Hockey League coach Mike Keenan, among others, the thrust of this book is on business leadership--with heroes like Walt Disney, Roy Kroc of McDonald's, and Roberto Guizeta of Coca Cola.
The field of leadership studies is more and more entering the turf of the social sciences, with numerous case studies and comparative studies, but this volume does not go there. Anecdotes are piled upon anecdotes to make point after point. A person less credible than the author, one of the most prolific writers on the subject, would meet more resistance with his generalizations.
The level of leadership in an organization serves as a lid on how successful an organization can be, the author says. The hire the level of leadership, the greater the potential of an organization. He speaks approvingly of the philosophy of firing old leaders when taking over a failing organization. "The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness," he says.
"Leadership develops daily and not in a day," he says. In other words, building leadership skills is the work of a lifetime. The four phases of leadership growth are (1) "I don't know what I don't know;" (2) "I know what I don't know;" (3) "I grow and know and it starts to show;" and (4) "I go because of what I know." There are no overnight successes, he says. The catchiness of this description might lead some to take it less serioiusly than it deserves to be taken.
A good leader, he says, has the traits of being disciplined. That includes "the discipline to prioritize and the ability to work toward a stated goal...." He draws distinctions between leaders and followers: (1) leaders initiate, while followers react; (2) leaders pick up the phone and make contact, while followers wait for the phone to ring; (3) leaders spend time planning and anticipate problems, while followers spend time living day to day reacting to problems; (4) leaders invest time with people, while followers spend time with people; (5) leaders fill the calendar by priorities, while followers fill the calendar by requests.
Leaders keep priorities in place by evaluating requirements, return, and reward. They eliminate unnecessary work by asking what can be done by someone else. They ask subordinates what are the top projects they are going and how long it will take.
He quotes a survey of regrets of people 95 and over conducted by the Rev. Dr. Anthony Campolo of Eastern University. The top three answers were "If I had to do it over again, I would reflect more. If I had to do it over again, I would risk more. If I had to do it over again, I would do more things that would live on after I am dead."
Trust is the foundation of leadership, he says. Strong character communicates consistency, generates the trust that allows subordinates to realize their potential, and communicates respect.
A strong leader develops his vision from within. He draws upon his history, meets others needs, and helps the organization in gathering resources.
Five myths about leadership are that leadership and management are the same; that all salespersons and entrepreneurs are leaders; that the mere aquisition of knowledge creates an ability to lead; that being first is the same as leading; and that leadership is based upon position. The real leader, he says, is the one who has influence with others.
Real leadership, the author says, is being the person that others will gladly and confidently follow. The five levels of leadership are (1) position--people follow because they have to; (2) permission--people follow because they want to; (3) production--people follow because of what the leader has done for the organization; (4)people development--people follow because of what you have done for them; and (5) personhood--people follow because of who the leader is and what he has done for them.
The higher one goes in leadership, he says, (1) the longer it takes to go from one level of leadership to another; (2) the easier it is to lead; (3) the greater the personal growth. One does not graduate from the old levels, but rather, as one advances, one must meet the requirements of more and more levels.
The act of empowering others changes lives, he says. The qualifications of an empowerer are position, relationship, respect, and commitment. To empower others to reach their potential, a leader should (1) evaluate them; (2) model for them; (3) give them permission to succeed; (4) transfer authority to them; (5) publicly show your confidence in them; (6) supply them with feedback, and (7) release them to continue on their own.
"As you empower others, " he says, "you will find that most aspects of your life will change for the better. Empowering others can free you personally to have more time for the important things in your life, increase the effectiveness of your organization, increase your influence with others, and, best of all, make an incredibly positive impact on the lives of the people you empower."
A leader's lasting impact is measured by the quality of his succession, the author concludes. Leaders who leave a legacy of succession lead the organization with a long view, create a leadership culture, pay the price today to achieve success tomorrow, view team leadership above individual leadership, and walk away from the organization with integrity. Few leaders are able to pass it on, but the author takes pride that in his career he has been one who has learned to do just that.
This book can best be used as a guide to emerging leaders, or a checklist for established leaders. One can quibble about the components of all his categories, and the oversimplification they entail, but there is no question that the author is a master synthesizer of forests of information and is well worth reading and pondering.