Saturday, May 28, 2005

Contrarian Leadership

There are countless books being published at the moment about leadership. Because most publishers I know are in business to make money, in all likelihood, this publishing interest is tapping into a larger cultural interest in leadership. After a while, books about leadership all begin to sound the same. One wonders whether the authors of some of these books need to publish on the topic in order to increase their speaking invitations. Nevertheless, I continue to be on the look-out for good books on leadership that describe in no uncertain terms the challenges and possibilities of leading organizations well.

I have just finished a helpful book by Steven Sample entitled, "The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership." As the title would suggest, Sample presents an approach to leadership that often is counter-intuitive. To give you an example, while most of the leadership gurus are suggesting that leaders must be decisive, Sample suggests that there is no need to make a decisive decision if the circumstances don't require it. In many cases, the more information one has before making a decision, the more informed one's decision can be.

Another contrarian approach to leadership Sample suggests is: don't spend an inordinate amount of time reading magazines, newspapers, and specialty journals. Rather, with the limited time good leaders have available for reading, read the classic texts (Machiavelli, Tolstoy, et. al). These books provide a wealth of information about the nature of humans and leadership. Be advised however, if you should become a contrarian leader, you may discover that you are the only one playing that tune in your organization.

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