July | August 2014


straighttalk

What is your favorite book on leadership
and what lessons does it offer?

 
Sandra O. Archibald
Dean of the Evans School of
Public Affairs
University of Washington

The Power of Civility

“My selection is ‘Hesselbein on Leadership,’ by Frances Hesselbein. I believe Frances is a truly transformational leader whose style and approach resonated with me. When she assumed the position of CEO of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., the organization was a bit staid, some would say stagnant. Through her visionary and inspirational leadership and employing the power of civility among her principles of management, she transformed the 102-year-old organization into a dynamic, forward-looking organization for the benefit of girls and young women across the country. Frances is a pioneer of achievement for women, diversity and inclusion. “

John Graham
Dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Indiana University Bloomington

Give Voice to Reforms

“That leadership happens from the top is a myth. It evolves as leaders gather ideas from—and take the temperatures of—their constituents and stakeholders. This lesson is evident in the real-world behaviors of American presidents. (See Brandice Canes-Wrone. ‘Who Leads Whom? Presidents, Policy, and the Public.’) A president, or any effective leader, does not usually lead people to unpopular policies or innovate through their own brilliance. They simply give voice to constructive reforms with majority support. What matters most is that they can listen, distinguish good ideas from bad and communicate—qualities in shorter supply than those ‘leadership’ experts tend to emphasize: intelligence, good looks and toughness.”

James B. Steinberg
Dean of the
Maxwell School
Syracuse University

A Leader Dreams and Does

“In his essay ‘Politics as a Vocation,’ Max Weber observed: ‘Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. …. (M)an would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. …. But to do this a man must be a leader. …’ With these words, Weber encapsulated the unique challenge of leadership—the lofty goals of aspiration and the determination to do the hard, often tedious work that is needed to turn aspiration into reality. The world is full of dreamers and doers—the leader does both.”
 

Henry E. Brady
Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

Context Matters a Lot

“Leadership books often provide little more than inspirational catchwords and lists of hoary maxims reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin’s ‘13 Virtues,’ such as ‘Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.’ I like volumes such as ‘The Power Broker,’ Robert Caro’s chronicle of how Robert Moses shaped New York City; ‘Team of Rivals,’ Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln and his cabinet; and ‘A Governor’s Story’ about the challenges Gov. Jennifer Granholm faced during Michigan’s toughest years from 2002 to 2010. These books provide important lessons. Context matters a lot. Leaders must set goals but be prepared to improvise. Leadership requires facing challenges squarely and getting things done (resolutely) no matter what.”

Stefanie Lindquist
Dean of the School of Public & International Affairs
University of Georgia

‘All in, All the Time’

“Leaders must be ‘all in, all the time,’ that is, fully committed, but without personalizing what happens around them. That is one of the key messages from Gary Burnison’s ‘The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership,’ a challenging and thought-provoking book. … For me, Burnison’s wisdom on listening and communication has been the most compelling: Listen without imposing your own thoughts on the speaker, never blame the messenger for speaking truth to power, and openly communicate your vision and operational plans to your people. As Burnison wisely cautions, leadership is not about you, it is about how you make others feel—empowered, creative, valued and engaged.”