Monday, May 7, 2007

So You Want to Be a Leader

A friend passed along this short article, whose author is not known. In which case, we will credit the famous 12th century philosopher, Anonymous. It's a very thoughtful one.

"So, you want to be a leader but don't know where to start? Well, after camping out in the self-help section at my local bookseller, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that you've got lots of help to choose from. The bad news is that you've got lots of help to choose from.

In my brief reconnaissance, I discovered a legion of writers who are just itching to let you in on their secrets. Don't believe it? Well, I'll save you a trip. I brought back proof. Don't expect a definitive list though. The cottage industry that's grown up around the subject of leadership easily keeps an army of loggers working overtime. So I just jotted down a representative sample -- enough I think to convince even the most skeptical that there's something for almost everyone. So, FOLLOW ME and read on.

As you might have guessed, leadership books are all over the map. If you want your leadership hard-edged and bloody-minded, you can cuddle up with Attila the Hun or Niccolo Machiavelli (Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, by Wess Roberts; Machiavelli on Modern Leadership by Michael Ledeen). If you worry that Attila might be too old school, don't despair. There are ample contemporary choices. How about a couple of political celebrities like Rudy Giuliani (Leadership) and Colin Powell (Oren Harari, The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell)? Sorry, Colin, but I'm guessing that they're not so secret any more. Finally, for the truly avant garde, there's Leadership for the Twenty-first Century, by Joseph C. Rost.

Not to digress, but Colin got me thinking. I've read The Da Vinci Code and I've heard about conspiracies to keep the rest of us in the dark. I wonder if there's a cabal of leaders trying to hide their secrets from the hoi polloi. Well, maybe. Colin's not the only one who's decided to fess up. GE's former boss, Jack Welch is another insider who's finally talking (Robert Slater, 29 Leadership Secrets From Jack Welch). Even Santa Claus has decided to come clean (Eric Harvey, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus). Who knew that the teamsters kept secrets?

There's also a heated debate over whether leadership is art or science. Max Depree says Leadership is an Art. And, he's got lots of company including retired General Barry McCaffrey, (Leadership: The Warrior's Art) and Ken Blanchard (Heart of a Leader: Insights on the Art of Influence). Au contraire contends Margaret Wheatley in her Leadership and the New Science. If you just can't choose, Afsaneh Nahavandi has just the book for you: The Art and Science of Leadership.

If you want your leadership especially inspirational, there's Jesus on Leadership, by C. Gene Wilkes and John C. Maxwell's The Maxwell Leadership Bible: Lessons in Leadership from the Word of God. Then, there's Daniel Goleman's Primal Leadership. Primal ... First, right? Isn't that like God? It's enough to make you scream.

The military seems to produce some of our best leaders so maybe they have some special insights. Let's see: There's No Excuse Leadership: Lessons from the U.S. Army's Elite Rangers, by Brace E. Barber; Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way, by Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh; Patton on Leadership, by Alan Axelrod; and Robert E. Lee on Leadership, by H.W. Crocker. Maybe this is not the best place to mention First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

If breaking the rules is more your style, this is the paragraph for you. So far, this has been pretty heavy stuff, but maybe leadership doesn't have to be a one-way street. Sure, it's serious business, but does it have to be all CEO Jesus and Old Blood and Guts? Remember Gen. Lee lost the war. His nemesis on the other-winning-side has some different advice: Lighten up (Al Kaltman, Cigars, Whiskey, and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant). Sounds like a relaxing and fun approach, but if you're looking for drop-dead easy, Ken Blanchard and Marc Muchnick have just the prescription: The Leadership Pill. Take two and attack in the morning.

Then, there are those who seem confused by the very idea of leadership -- like David Cottrell, the author of Monday Morning Leadership. Excuse me, but doesn't "Monday morning" suggest second-guessing? Aren't leaders supposed to be decisive? Cottrell has his supporters though. Valerie Sokolosky spins the same idea in Monday Morning Leadership for Women. So, leaders aren't just from Mars.

I don't know where she's from or what's she's been smoking, but Barbara Kellerman misses the point in Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters. BAD leadership? I don't think so. Leadership is a means to an end. The end might be bad, but leadership is still leadership. The same applies to Ed Oakley's Enlightened Leadership. Ed, can you say oxymoron? Maybe what they need is Marshall Loeb's and Stephen Kindel's Leadership for Dummies. Or, morons.

This is a heretical thought, but maybe you don't need any of these books. That's what Jeffrey S. Nielsen dares to suggest in The Myth of Leadership. Scott Adams takes a similar tack and also has the last laugh in Don't Step in the Leadership: A Dilbert Book. Sounds like sage advice to me."

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