Real Leadership: Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges
Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:
In Real Leadership, Dean Williams argues that any leadership that lets people sidestep the sometimes harsh truth of reality is irresponsible — and ultimately ineffective. He then offers a new paradigm that redefines the proper function and purpose of leadership: responsible leadership. This approach, he says, gets people to face difficult realities, and mobilizes them to address their organization’s most pressing challenge — the primary threat or opportunity that must be confronted in order to progress.
Responsible leaders help people shift their values, habits, practices, and priorities to accommodate changing conditions and new demands. Williams contends that leaders must have a passion for insight and an unrelenting commitment to discovery — discovery about the context and specific features of the challenges people face, and discovery about how their power affects the group in their problem-solving ventures. Case studies and real-life examples, some drawn from the author’s personal experiences, illustrate responsible leadership at work.
Too many organizations today play follow the leader: the commander articulates a "vision" and people uncritically go along with it. But this style of leadership is ultimately ineffective and even dangerous. It hampers people's ability to anticipate and react to changing circumstances. And if the leaderŐs vision is flawed, the entire organization will suffer.
In Real Leadership, Dean Williams argues that the true task of the leader is to get people to face the reality of any situation themselves and develop strategies to deal with problems or take advantage of opportunities. Leaders who are responsible with their power and authority don't dictate; they help people determine what shifts in their values, habits, practices and priorities will be needed to accommodate changing conditions and new demands.
Williams details how to apply this new approach to six different challenges that every organization faces. Throughout, he uses examples from his own experiences working with organizations as diverse as the government of Singapore, Aetna Life and Casualty, and the nomadic Penan tribe in Borneo as well as historical examples and the insights gleaned from his many interviews with presidents, prime ministers, and business leaders to demonstrate the practical application of real leadership in the real world. At a time when so many "visionary" leaders have led their organizations to disaster, Real Leadership offers a needed, proven alternative.
"A well-developed set of theories and best practices, reinforced through excellent current and historical examples and cases, that strengthens leaders at all levels."
—Marshall Carter, Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange
"A wise and capacious book on the real challenges of leadership. Williams writes with a rare and unique global perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot."
—Warren Bennis, University Professor, University of Southern California, and author of On Becoming a Leader
"Individuals can make a difference, particularly if they are willing to exercise real leadership. I welcome the broad and refreshing approach Williams adopts, which should help to foster new leadership."
—Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
"In this fresh, provocative book, Dean Williams sets forth a sweeping and different view of "real leadership". He brings to these pages a rich accumulation of insights. Whether or not you agree with him, this book deserves your close attention."
—David Gergen, Former adviser to five U.S. presidents, and Director, Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Send us your favorite quotes or passages from this book.
• "Fundamentally, real leadership gets people to confront reality and change values, habits, practices, and priorities in order to deal with the real threat or the real opportunity the people face. It facilitates improvements in the human condition. Counterfeit leadership, on the other hand, provides false solutions and allows the group to by pass reality." Pg. ix
About the Author
Dean Williams is Lecturer in Public Policy at the Center for Public Leadership, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. At Harvard he created and directed the Superintendent’s Leadership Program for enhancing leadership capacity in large urban school districts. He has advised many organizations throughout the world, including Dunn and Bradstreet, The New York Times, Aetna, and McKinsey, as well as many governments, such as East Timor, Singapore, Australia, and Brunei. He is currently working with the government of Madagascar and with government, business, and community leaders in Columbia.
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