"A leader's ability to do a good job depends on skills related to sound decision-making and the courage to do the right thing regardless of her/his popularity."
By Larraine Segil, James Belasco and Marshall Goldsmith
AMACOM, New York, 304 pages, $27.95, (212) 903-8316
I like this kind of book, which presents essays from 30 thought leaders, including Kenneth Blanchard, James Kouzes and Jon Katzenbach, on topics ranging from teamwork to managing companies in the digital era. This one is better than most compendiums because of the sheer number of contributors. My advice is to leave it on your desk and pick it up when you have a free moment (ha!) to read a section.
The two most valuable sections are those by Kouzes in collaboration with Barry Posner, and co-editor James Belasco. Kouzes' and Posner's essay is typical of their wisdom and excellence. Of special interest is the section about the importance of face-to-face contact between real live humans as a trust-building exercise. This idea is not revolutionary, but is one that many CEOs and other corporate leaders ignore to their detriment. At my short-lived dot-com our CEO came into the office for a day or two, and kind of hid out in a small office. When some of us learned he had been in town, we wondered what he looked like. Guess how long that company lasted.
Belasco's piece, The Leader as Partner-Coach and People Developer, is one about which my former boss still has no clue. The passage about actor James Caan taking a sabbatical to get into coaching youth baseball at the height of his career is as wonderful as it is insightful, especially in contrast to Caan's master work playing the role of hot-headed Santino "Sonny" Corleone in The Godfather. Needless to say, Caan decided to promote the joy of sport rather than say "badda-bing" to motivate his players.