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Leadership Passage - The Personal and Professional Transitions

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Book: 'Leadership Passages - The Personal and Professional Transitions That Make or Break a Leader'

Author: David L. Dotlich, James L. Noel and Norman Walker

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2004

ISBN: 0-7879-7427-7

Leader Values

The business world has a never-ending demand for books on leadership. Even when business is soft, the publication of new leadership books just keeps rolling on. That is understandable, since leadership is a key business skill. But it also means that new books have a lot of competition. Just being new isnt enough. They must stand out from the crowd by having something new to say. Leadership Passages passes that test easily by giving an unusual and illuminating perspective on leadership.

Most books on leadership fall into two broad categories - those describing how to acquire the essential skills that form the basis of leadership; and those that focus on the personal character and integrity needed to be a good leader. These two approaches to leadership are often discussed in an either/or manner. Leadership Passages rejects the either/or approach and insists that being a good leader is a both/and situation. Leaders need to have both skills and integrity.

But management development consultants Dotlich, Noel and Walker dont spend their time discussing the specific skills and personality characteristics needed for leadership. Plenty of books cover that already. Instead, they look at leadership in terms of the key situations that can build or destroy leadership. Based on their coach/trainer consulting for senior executives in major companies, they have identified thirteen such passages. Some are positive (like getting a job or taking on a leadership role), some are negative (like gettng fired or dealing with a significant failure), and some are personal (like losing a loved one or moving to a different country).

This novel perspective on leadership gives us a number of interesting insights. Firstly, these leadership passages are predictable. They often catch us by surprise, but most leaders go through most of these passages. The extent to which our leadership skills are built (or damaged) by these events depends on how open we are to the experience and to what it can teach us. And contrary to what you might expect, leadership ability can benefit more from dealing successfully with a negative, adverse passage than from simply passing unscathed through a positive experience. Or in the words of the authors, At times of adversity, people experience teachable moments. The old sporting adage No pain, no gain is relevant to leadership too.

The authors point out that organisations typically give their leaders little support during adverse passages, especially personal ones. If you get divorced or your spouse dies, companies expect you to keep on working and pretend that everything is just fine. Leadership Passages takes a different stance by recommending that organisations use these situations as an opportunity for building leadership capability.

An eight-step Survive and Thrive Guide gives tips on how you can maximise learning and growth as you go through each of the leadership passages. There is even a discussion on preparing for the last step retirement. Despite the crowded shelves of books about leadership, this is useful and thought-provoking reading for all leaders.

Web link for more information on this book: http://as.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0787974277.html