HR Manager’s Bookshelf

Many perspectives on leadership

Authors and researchers continue to explore the topic of leadership. This column touches on the concept of “resonant leadership,” and on the question “Why should anyone be led by you?” It explores whether the leader is actually “the ape in the corner office” and is leadership really “for everyone?” It concludes with a look at the special leadership role and challenges of the CIO.

The Ape in the Corner Office

By Richard Conniff,
342 pages,
Crown Business (2005)
ISBN 1-4000-5219-X

Ever wonder why someone else got the promotion, or how to survive as a subordinate without becoming a spineless yes-man? This book observes that “whatever else we may be, whatever divine spark we may possess, the inescapable reality is that human beings are also animals. We are apes, to be precise.”

So, what can we learn from the animal kingdom that may help us understand workplace behaviour and dynamics? Highly effective apes know it’s often smarter to give than to receive. Doing favours, grooming co-workers with kind words and building coalitions are behaviours straight from the jungle.

Chapter titles include:

•Nice monkey: The search for the unselfish gene;

•Being negative: Why things look worse than they probably are;

•Doughnut dominance: Why hierarchy works;

•Tooth and claw: How we wage dominance contests on the job;

•Bending the knee: Strategies for subordinates;

•Monkey see: The power of imitation;

•A landscape of fear: Why do jerks seem to prosper?; and

•Running with the pack: Why lone wolves are losers.

Resonant Leadership

By Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee,
286 pages,
Harvard Business School Press (2005)
ISBN 1-59139-563-1

The authors, with Daniel Goleman, wrote Primal Leadership – Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence (now available in softcover, HBS Press ISBN 1-59139-184-9). That book introduced the concept of resonant leadership, where the leader is “in tune” with followers, and contrasted it with the dissonant type of leadership that exhibits a lack of harmony and trust and is characterized by abuse, tyranny or more subtle forms of manipulation.

The new book fully explores the landscape of resonant leadership and the dissonance that is all too frequently the “default” condition in a stressful work world. Readers will find directions toward paths of self-awareness, growth and change as well as tools and exercises a leader can use in pursuing renewal through an “intentional change” model.

The authors were asked about the three paths they describe: mindfulness, hope and compassion, and how such “soft” concepts can be applied pragmatically. Their answer: “It is precisely the soft stuff that leads to positive business results.”

Why Should Anyone be Led by You?

By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones,
244 pages,
Harvard Business School Press (2006)
ISBN 1-57851-971-3

This book is built around a series of questions to consider, calmly and reflectively, to focus on one’s leadership potential and how to develop it:

•Which personality differences could form the basis of your leadership capability?

•Which personal weaknesses do you reveal to those you are leading?

•Are you able to read different contexts?

•Do you conform enough?

•How well do you manage social distance?

•Do you have a good sense of organizational time?

•How well do you communicate?

Individual chapters explore these issues as well as communicating with care, taking personal risks and “the price and prize of leadership.” Leaders act as “authentic chameleons” who can consistently display their true selves while adapting to different contexts and a variety of roles.

The writers, who are on the London Business School faculty, also explore “authentic followership:” followers’ wants and expectations and, in turn, the leader’s expectations of followers.

Harvard Business Review on Leadership

238 pages,
Harvard Business School Press
ISBN 0-87584-883-4

Here in softcover is a compilation of classic articles on the subject:

•“The manager’s job: folklore and fact” by Henry Mintzberg (1975)

•“What leaders really do” by John Kotter (1990)

•“Managers and leaders: are they different?” by Abraham Zaleznik (1977)

•“The discipline of building character” by Joseph Badaracco (1998)

•“The ways chief executive officers lead” by Charles Farkas and Suzy Wetlaufer (1996)

•“The human side of management” by Thomas Teal (1996)

•“The work of leadership” by Ronald Jeifetz and Donald Laurie (1997)

•“Whatever happened to the take-charge manager?” by Nitin Nohria and James Berkley (1994)

The New CIO Leader

By Marianne Broadbent and Ellen Kitzis,
340 pages,
Harvard Business School Press (2005)
ISBN 1-59139-577-1

The field of information technology is at a crossroads between problems and threats versus challenges and promise, and the authors draw on extensive research by their firm, Gartner Inc., to propose 10 priorities for CIOs to distinguish themselves:

•lead, don’t just manage;

•understand the fundamentals of your environment;

•create a vision for how IT will build your organization’s success;

•shape and inform expectations for an IT-enabled enterprise;

•create clear and appropriate IT governance;

•weave business and IT strategy together;

•build a new IS organization, one that’s more lean and focused;

•develop and nurture a high-performing team;

•manage the new enterprise and IT risks; and

•communicate IS performance in business-relevant language.

The book features numerous case examples, among them British Airways, Citigroup, Yallourn Energy, Disney, UNICEF and American city and federal agencies.

Readers interested in IT leadership development may also want to read IT Leadership Alchemy (Prentice Hall PTR, 2003, ISBN 0-13-009403-X), reviewed in Canadian HR Reporter on April 25, 2005.

Leadership for Everyone

By Peter Dean,
171 pages,
Amacom (2006)
ISBN 0-07-145340-7

A resource for middle-level managers, and one that could benefit more junior and more senior leaders throughout the organization as well, this book takes a step-by-step look at seven skills that leaders must demonstrate in order to succeed as a boss, mentor and role model:

•listen to learn;

•empathize with emotions;

•attend to aspirations;

•diagnose and detail;

•engage for good ends;

•respond with respectfulness; and

•speak with specificity.

Together, these seven skills comprise the author’s “leaders” method for bringing to their territory of influence “greater productivity, meaningfulness at work and enjoyment.”

Ray Brillinger is a certified management consultant working internationally with organizations on change management, HR strategy and performance improvement. He can be reached at [email protected].

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