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Why Should You Lead Anyone? - Book Review

1 March 2018
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book "Why Should You Lead Anyone?" by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, 2006, presents a distinctive approach to leadership that doesn't rely on merely listing a person's credentials or enumerating uniform traits essential for leadership. Instead, it delves into the art of leadership by encouraging individuals to embrace their true selves. A similar concept is introduced in Tom Rath's work, "Strengths-Based Leadership," which suggests that no singular formula or checklist of qualities defines a leader. Therefore, the book refrains from prescribing an ideal or showcasing an exemplary individual to emulate. Goffee and Jones argue that the public yearns for something they can genuinely believe in, which propels their pursuit of authentic leadership.

 

The book explores the following topics:
  • Harnessing your strengths

  • Managing your weaknesses

  • Adapting to dynamic environments

  • Cultivating relationships

  • Effective communication

  • Leaders' expectations of you

  • Your expectations of leaders

  • Summary

 

This book offers an alternative perspective on leadership and is highly recommended for reading.

 

Harnessing your strengths

To embody an authentic leadership style, leaders must remain true to their identity, ensuring their words align harmoniously with their actions. Mastering such leadership requires honing specific skills:

  1. Self-awareness serves as a foundational pillar. Cultivating a deep awareness and profound understanding of one's inherent uniqueness that naturally appeals to others becomes crucial. Acknowledging that not every trait or behavior possesses this distinctiveness is essential. This uniqueness can manifest in various ways, from exceptional interpersonal skills to a genuine connection with one's heritage or a distinctive accent. While one may have an innate sense of their unique qualities, adept leadership involves elevating this subconscious understanding to conscious awareness and radiating it within their environment. Naturally, the authenticity of this uniqueness holds the utmost significance.

  2. The skill of highlighting this captivating uniqueness emerges as the next imperative. It involves presenting this appealing distinctiveness, not excessively, but authentically. Effectively and constructively leveraging this uniqueness emphasizes the distinctive image ingrained within those around them.



A crucial point to remember is that this distinctive trait or behavior sparks attraction among people—thus, it's a presumption. These exceptional attributes can form the foundation of one's leadership approach, making it relatable and emotionally resonant. The key lies in seamlessly weaving these unique traits into the values and vision one aims to lead with.

 

Managing your weaknesses

Interestingly, amidst their strengths and achievements, revealing a recognized and familiar weakness of the leader doesn't diminish their stature; instead, it bolsters their position. This action underscores their humanity and nurtures an environment capable of fostering empathetic understanding. It's crucial to emphasize that the presentation of weakness should be proportionate to the display of strength rather than vice versa. An example of a liability might include stubbornness or a tendency to become easily distracted. As long as these attributes are authentic, genuine, and not of paramount significance, they are met with respect or affection. Remarkably, they can even be transformed into assets and sources of empowerment. 


Adapting to dynamic environments

A leader must recognize that effective leadership depends on the specific situation, necessitating consistent evaluation of the appropriateness of their leadership approach based on the circumstances. To achieve this, the leader must: 

 

  1. Have the ability to discern the evolving scenario.

  2. Demonstrate the capacity to adjust their approach to some extent.

  3. Understand when and how to initiate a change that will impact the situation and align their conduct with their leadership style.

 

This delicate balance between adaptation and transformation requires proficiency across three levels:

  • In dealing with individuals, especially those who influence the organization and its leadership.

  • When managing teams and groups, particularly during transitions across different life cycle stages, such as formation, ideation, institutionalization, and execution.

  • Even when stepping into a new leadership role or navigating distinct subcultures within the organization, such as field versus headquarters or R&D versus marketing. The leader must possess the insight to comprehend the organization's structure and assess the extent of social dynamics (interpersonal relationships) and cohesion (alignment with tasks). These dimensions significantly impact leaders' ability to advance their objectives in ever-changing circumstances.

 

Cultivating relationships

Leadership extends beyond individual achievement; it entails a complex interaction with the broader environment, particularly with fellow leaders. Within this dynamic, a crucial skill is managing proximity and adapting to varying circumstances and needs.

 

Maintaining Distance:

  • Achieved through the use of precise language and concise communication.

  • Enforced through the application of consequences or reprimands.

  • Executed through formal mechanisms such as meetings and memos.

  • Implemented through physical separation, including separate dining arrangements and travel plans.

  • And various other methods, as suggested by the authors, are reminiscent of the legendary Dilbert.

 

Instances for Maintaining Distance:

  • When asserting authority is necessary.

  • When addressing an organization's challenges.

  • When supporting claims with objective evidence.

  • During initial acquaintances to preserve authenticity.

 

Establishing Proximity:

  • Forged through informal conversations.

  • Facilitated through meetings outside regular hours.

  • Fostered through social events and travel opportunities.

 

Instances for Establishing Proximity:

  • When seeking to understand ongoing situations.

  • When striving to strengthen interpersonal connections.

 

It's essential to remember that individuals naturally maintain varying levels of closeness or distance. Both aspects are crucial—whether dealing with individuals the leader admires or those they have a lesser affinity for. Once again, striking this delicate balance is vital for effective leadership and the cultivation of authenticity.

 

Effective communication

Communication is essential in any relationship, especially in a leader's interactions with internal and external environments. Recognizing the paramount importance of communication, organizations emphasize its relevance.


Fostering Effective Communication:

  • Mastering the art of crafting captivating stories.

  • Delivering narratives that resonate authentically within the context and the current situation.

 

Communication serves as a crucial tool in change management efforts.

Key principles include:

  • Disseminating a clear and compelling vision.

  • Harnessing the power of positive organizational forces to drive change implementation.

  • Expanding the scope of change by establishing well-defined, understandable steps that pave the way forward.

 

 Leaders' expectations of you

Research indicates that leaders seek the following qualities in a leader:

  1. Authenticity (as discussed earlier).

  2. A sense of making meaningful contributions to the process and the organization.

  3. The belief is that their involvement carries significance within the organization and the larger context.

  4. Enthusiasm - Individuals need a sense of excitement to feel motivated to follow a leader.

  5. Social connection and feeling integral to a community rather than just a group.

 

Your expectations of leaders

A leader is entirely justified in nurturing expectations among their followers. This approach is most effective when:

 

  1. Individuals are willing to express their opinions openly.

  2. Individuals are ready to complement the leader's qualities in areas where they perceive the leader as lacking.

  3. People are skilled at endorsing changes and acknowledging the occasional need for them. They understand that being part of an organization and adhering to ethical behavior involves a degree of uncertainty. This even applies to diligent employees who ultimately embrace calculated risks.

 

Summary

Being a leader is undeniably challenging; the role carries inherent risks and occasionally takes a toll. The act of leadership, its vulnerability, and the displayed care—integral to leadership—expose leaders to risks.

 

Nevertheless, despite the obstacles, it is both rewarding and strongly recommended. This motivation is not driven by the quest for popularity (which may or may not materialize and certainly isn't the primary litmus test) but rather by the drive to advance a cause that transcends the individual—a cause greater than any single person, uniting them under a grander, loftier purpose. It's crucial not to deceive ourselves; leadership fundamentally revolves around achieving results. If this criterion is met, our efforts are undeniably successful, affirming the pursuit as worthwhile.


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