Leadership Book Notes

Dr Sharon Drury, Professor of Organizational Leadership, Indiana Wesleyan University


Buckingham, Marcus (2006). The one thing you need to know: about leadership, management, and personal success.

Leadership focuses on the future; core [inborn] talents are optimism and ego—channeled into service bigger than self and checked by strong ethic.  Management starts with the person and turns employee’s talent into meeting organizational goals; core talent is coaching.  Leaders get project done; people are never done (and admits he’s not a good manager for this reason, according to his def of it). All good leaders take time to reflect (why did this work, keeping future in focus); choose heroes with great care (hanging bell on lead sheep); practice stories before telling them (craft them well for repeating throughout the company).  To succeed in life, make sustainability the key to everything—even your marriage. Get rid of the things that drain you. Increase your strengths and make your weaknesses irrelevant. 

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership

“Leadership is the reciprocal process of mobilizing by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers (p. 425) It has political air yet more generic than most post-industrial definitions. He also said, “leaders and followers are engaged in a common enterprise; they are dependent on each other, their fortunes rise and fall together.” (p 25) 

Clawson, J.G. (2003) Level Three Leadership.

Clawson promotes 3 major thrusts: strategic thinking (leadership for what), relationship building (leading whom) and designing an action context (organizational design issues) Target Level Three (core values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations—VABES) is more effective/powerful than those who traditionally target Level One (focus on behavior) and Level Two (conscious thinking).

Denning, Stephen (2007) The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative

Denning proposes a leader model that delays a rational approach to creating change. He believes that once the mind has drawn a conclusion, it is very difficult to rationally, and in a timely manner, persuade someone from that opinion. Ultimately, inspiration occurs through an emotional connection that is best influenced through storytelling.

Hamel, Gary (2007). The future of Management. Boston: Harvard Business School Publ.

Hamel says “management innovation” is the key to long-term business success (not control & efficiency—which he calls toxic in orgs today, but adaptability and creativity). Modern management pioneers are: General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, Toyota, and Visa.

Hamel has written many HBR articles and is visiting professor at London Business School.

Hewlett, S. A. (2007). Off-Ramps and On Ramps: Keeping talented women on the road to success.  Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing


Author is an economist, founder, & President of th Center for Work-Life Policy, Columbia University and founded “Hidden Brain Drain Task Force” on Harris Polling research of “highly qualified” women & men (graduate or professional degree or high honors undergraduate) to call for solutions to fill the talent void (declining birth rate and shifting ratio of older workers). Hewlett sees the talent problem as the traditional career model [male/competititve/lock-step] and high cost of hiring and training new personnel, with the research on women’s non-linear careers (37% stop out for an avg. of 2.2 yrs) that are stigmatized for later leadership positions. Hewlett sees a turning point because women’s non-linear careers (and not having salary a top value) is being joined by men in their 20s & 30s who are wanting balance and flexibility and often have wives wth careers, as well as men in their 50s who are leaving extreme jobs (70+ work weeks) for work that allows multidimensional lives. Solutions fill half the book, with case studies of initiatives that are impacting the bottom line and changing corporate culture. These plus the research stats on the gendered workplace provide good arguments for reimaging worklife everywhere.

McCauley, C. D. & Van Velsor, E. (2004) The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons

“Adults can develop the important capacities that facilitate their effectiveness in leadership roles and processes (p 3).”  The Handbook addresses how individuals improve “capacity for leadership” and how organizations can, too. Their model has 2 parts; a) each leadership development experience needs 3 elements: assessment, challenge, and support, and b) the ability to learn from experience mixed with a variety of developmental experiences (best if over time). Both parts should be in a particular organizational context—to give focus, show integration, and who is responsible for it. 

 Ch 14 sees organizational capacity for leadership development; give managers responsibility for developing others and hold them accountable for it; intentionally broaden their access to others across the org (informal networks) as well as creating formal executive coaching  (though research has found that assigned mentor/protégé relationships are not as beneficial as informal ones).  

Sample, S. B. (2002) The Contrarian’s guide to leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

USC President Steven Sample’s book was an honest and fresh perspective to the easy answers often served up as valid leadership. It is also very personal, e.g., he reads 30 minutes a day--10 for newspapers and journals, and 20 from books. Sample also acknowledges upfront how situational and contingent most leadership is, i.e., what works in one place won’t necessarily succeed in a different context or in the same context at a different time (pg 1). Likewise, quotes out of context from this 2002 publication can be dangerous, which led me to reread this book. Some misperceptions from this book: 

"Think gray" (Ch1)

>>>> This is part of Sample’s “open communication and structured decision making” rule where leaders invite opposing views on the weightiest of issues to avoid the binary instincts that lead to rushed judgments or flip-flopping. Most of us are part of organizations now where it’s common practice to talk with/email anyone among the layers of authority.  This only works, says Sample, “if everyone understands and accepts the second half of the equation” and if that is “strictly and faithfully adhered to” (pg 32-33).    

Never make a decision yourself that can reasonably be delegated to a lieutenant” and “Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off until tomorrow” (p71-72).

>>>>The key here is that top leaders of organizations need to be asking what can and should be delegated or delayed in comparison with other more important decisions. The good old adage “don’t, delay, delegate, do” works for many of us. Sample’s advice included not only delegation, to the point of taking responsibility even if things turn out badly as a result, but also strong accountability measures. Delegation builds strong lieutenants; and if they don’t get along with each other, “fire one or both of them” (pg 77).