This book was recommended by a good friend. As it says in the foreword to the book, there are a huge number of books available on the subject of leadership but many of them tend to concentrate on the processes and models around the role. This book has a more practical application, in my opinion, because it concentrates on how the role is carried in real life by real people by interviewing many leaders as research for this book.It is probably useful to list some of the people interviewed because you will then have a better idea as to whether you will find the book relevant to you:
Sue Campbell CBE was appointed Reform Chair of UK Sport in 2003
Sebastian Coe, (Baron Coe) Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and, of course, the holder of two Olympic gold medals
Nasser Hussein, England cricket team captain between 1999 and 2003
Martin Johnson CBE, captain of the victorious England rugby team in the World Cup in 2003
Sir Clive Woodward OBE who coached the England Rugby team to its World Cup victory in 2003
Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone Warehouse
Ron Dennis CBE, chairman and chief executive of the Mclaren Group
Greg Dyke, past director-general of the BBC
Martin Glenn, CEO of Birds Eye Iglo Group
Heather Rabbatts CBE, a former barrister with an impressively eclectic CV
Gail Rebuck CBE, chair and chief executive of Random House, one of the UK’s leading trade publishing companies
Kevin Roberts, worldwide CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi
Dame Stella Rimington, former director-general of MI5
You will see from the list that there is a wealth of experience from which to draw in the writing of this book.The word ‘leader’ is often applied to those in a position of responsibility or authority in commercial or military context but, of course the word has a much wider application to include parents, those running local sports teams, amdram and many other societies, in fact any situation where people are required to inspire others to get the best out of them and to help them fulfil their definition of success.
I like one of the definitions of the outcome of a great leader quoted in the book: ‘Leadership makes a company admirable’; this applies to all of the situations mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The authors make the valid point that there are all sorts of leaders; it’s fairly obvious that someone who is an inspirational leader in times of war might have a different set of characteristics from a leader of a local authority but there seem to be some traits and characteristics that are common to most leaders.
The question of whether leaders are born or made is addressed and arguments for both points of view are put forward by exploring the family, education and career backgrounds of those interviewed.
There are chapters on the influences of parents, teachers, bosses [sic] – horrible word – but I am surprised that the influence of differing cultural backgrounds was not explored. Other chapters deal with vision, decision-making and risk – great quote in this chapter: ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’ and the differences between men and women in the decision-making process.
Two sobering statistics stood out for me. In the chapter covering Change Management, it says that as many as 75% initiatives fail; Mancroft has a view on this, we believe to many change management initiatives do not address the hearts of minds of those affected by the changes so it’s the classic ‘leaky pen and rubber gloves’ syndrome.
The second statistic is a quote from Charles Handy, of whom many of you will have heard, in the chapter covering Empathic and Authentic leadership. He says that 72% of employees are dissatisfied with the organisation for which they work and 19% would actually sabotage it, given the chance – wow, what an indictment for many leader.
This review is getting a little on the long side so I will end it by saying that I believe this book has relevance for almost all of us so if you are in any position that requires leadership skills, buy this book, it’s one of the best I have read on this subject.