Complete Leadership

Reviewed by: 
Susan Bloch, Philip Whiteley, Daniel Goleman (foreword)
Pearson Professional Education
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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There are well over 1 million managers in the UK economy. Nearly all of them have started in a technical specialism, and their roles require both specialist knowledge and the ability to lead people. Yet while their technical training usually covered several years, their training in people was typically a few days or even hours. Is it any wonder that so many of us find it difficult?

Complete Leadership is a book that both shows people how to lead, and tells them why such development is commercially important. It challenges our tendency to regard personal leadership skills as ‘the soft stuff’, saying that they are at least as important to effecting business objectives as analysis, strategy and technical knowledge.

So this is a practical ‘how to’ leadership book with an attitude as well as a method. The dual elements reflect the co-authorship. Susan Bloch is an experienced leadership coach with high-level clients in blue-chip companies. Philip Whiteley is a management journalist and a critic of accountancy-based management models.

The coaching element dominates the content. It is based on the approach developed by Daniel Goleman, author of ‘Emotional Intelligence’, who writes a Foreword for this book. The approach is based on the idea that individuals can usefully think in terms of possessing different leadership styles, and deploying one rather than another as the situation demands.

The ‘complete’ leader, as referred to in the book’s title, is one who can draw upon the full range, like a golfer with a complete selection of clubs. For example, Bloch and Whiteley give illustrations of how a coaching leadership style is effective when dealing with highly motivated individuals who lack skills or confidence. But a more directive style may be necessary at a time of crisis. The six styles defined and explored are:

  • Authoritative
  • Coaching
  • Democratic
  • Affiliative
  • Coercive and
  • Pace-setting

The pros and cons of each one are discussed, with real-life case studies as examples. All the corporate stories are European, which may make this work more accessible to many individuals, as most emotional intelligence literature is North American. There are examples of businesses being saved from crisis, or built up almost from scratch, with direct links to the leadership styles deployed. The writing style is measured, mature, and accessible.

In short, this is a book that is clear in philosophy and practical in application. It is also refreshingly free of complicated diagrams or jargon. As Roger Eglin in The Sunday Times wrote of Complete Leadership: ‘Anyone about to move to an important new job would be wrong t o miss this clear and sensible book.'


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