The Four Vs of Leadership

Reviewed by: 
Peter Shaw
Alistair Schofield, Managing Director, Extensor Limited

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The Four Vs of Leadership is an unusual book as it does not conform to the usual genre of management books, in that, despite its title, it does not seek to suggest any simplistic formula for success.  The four Vs stand for Vision, Values, Value added and Vitality and are suggested as a framework for thinking about your own philosophy and approach to leading people.

Rather than being a “management book”, the Four Vs of Leadership would be better described as a coaching book.  Its author, Peter Shaw, is an experienced executive coach who has spent many years coaching senior people in both public and private sector organisations after himself leading a successful career as a senior civil servant.

To describe each of the four Vs, the author gives numerous examples, presumably taken from his own coaching experiences, of the way different people interpret and apply the four Vs themselves.  As well as being helpful in explaining the subject, this also serves to illustrate that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership, it is an art that must be interpreted and applied differently by everyone.

I like the book because I believe so strongly that a) leadership is about the individual and b) that most individuals in business have never spent much time thinking about what their personal principles are.  If a person is serious about being an effective leader, this book will help take them through that thought process.

To explain the book the author writes:  In writing this book my hope for you is that:

Vision. Your vision will become clearer.  It might be a specific vision in terms of your work or your community. There will be a coherence in your vision of who you are and who you want to be that links each aspect of your life: it will be a dynamic vision that is evolving with you enabling constructive changes to happen in different spheres of your life while recognising your responsibilities.

Values. Your values will be consistent across each aspect of your life.  You will understand where your values come from and why they are such a core part of you. You will intend to take forward your values strongly in the way you live in community with others. You will be looking at all your decisions in relation to your values.

Value-added. You will have thought very hard about where you want to add value. You will be rehearsing and practicing in areas where you want to strengthen your capacity to do so. You will not be daunted for long by setbacks but will be developing the resilience to maintain your value-added whatever the pressures.

Vitality. You will have taken a fresh look at your sources of energy.  You will be experimenting with different ways of ensuring freshness and joy in your life. You will have moved on from the notion of rigid concepts of work/life balance to testing how each activity is sapping you or re-energising you. You will be viewing time in a very different sort of way and will not be ruled by the clock; instead you will be strongly influenced in your use of time by how you can influence others for good in the most constructive way.

This book will not be to everyone’s taste, but I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for some help and guidance in reflecting on their own four Vs.  I would also recommend it to anyone working as an executive coach.  Peter is clearly an excellent coach and the book therefore provides an insight into his work.

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