Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?
|Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
Harvard Business School Press
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited
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I have to admit to feeling just a bit disappointed when I started reading Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Not because the book is in any sense disappointing, it isn’t, it’s an excellent book, but because it so closely mirrors many of my own views on leadership that I am annoyed that I had not put pen to paper myself – not that I would have come close to doing anything like as good a job as Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.
The reason I like the book so much is that it does not shy away from the complexities of the subject. Far too many books on leadership attempt to portray the subject in simplistic terms, offering the reader a model of leadership along with the implication that if the reader adheres to the model, they will be rewarded with instant success. The underlying assumptions in such books is that leadership is something we do to other people, whereas, as Goffee and Jones eloquently point out, “leadership should be seen as something we do with other people.”
Leadership is therefore a social science, subject to all the complexities and vagaries of any other social science. Acknowledging this will probably result in this book selling in smaller numbers than if they had followed the more simplistic approach of other writers, but as a result it is far more valuable and will make a more lasting contribution to our understanding of the subject.
Before delving into the complexities of the relationship between leaders and the led, the authors first explain that leadership is situational and that the best leaders possess excellent sensory acuity. Although it may seem obvious to state that different circumstances will require different approaches, it is something that is blatantly ignored in many books. Goffee and Jones point out that good leaders seem able to accurately assess a situation and adjust their approach and behaviour accordingly. The book illustrates the point with many practical examples.
Perhaps the largest part of the book is given over to describing that leadership is relational. In other words, “you cannot be a leader without followers”. In stating this, the authors are acknowledging that any model of leadership must include both parties. However, since the relationship between people is both individual and complex, there is no simple way to explain it. To overcome this challenge the book illustrates its points with frequent references to individuals and situations that the authors have witnessed at first hand. While this achieves it’s objective, it does give rise to my only criticism of the book, which is that there are a few too many examples for my own taste.
So how does this book stack up in the perennial nature or nurture debate – are leaders born or are they made? Although the book does not overtly address the question, it makes an valuable contribution to our understanding and, in doing so, is of benefit to all of us who seek to improve our leadership skills and those of the people around us.
However, do not expect this book to provide you with any simple answers – it is far too honest for that.
To find out more about “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” please click here to link to an article by the authors entitled “Three Leadership Fundamentals.”
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