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Good on Coaching... Not So Good on Leadership
on July 20, 2012
I bought the third edition (which concentrated entirely on coaching) about eight years ago and thought it was excellent.
However, for me, this new fourth edition, which is subtitled "The principles and practice of coaching and leadership", over-promises and fails to deliver on the "leadership" bit. In my view, there are much better books on the principles and practice of leadership.
John Whitmore has added three new chapters on the subject of leadership. The first is largely a re-presentation of an old chapter ("Coaching the Corporation") under a new chapter heading ("The Challenge to Leaders") so it is essentially old wine in a new bottle. The second stresses the need for leaders to get beyond their old conditioning and free themselves from fear (which I am all for) but it does not say much about its practice other than, "It can be achieved by coaching." The third lists the author's views on the ideal leader's qualities: (1) values-driven (2) vision (3) authenticity (4) agility - that is, flexibility, ability to get beyond old conditioning, and creativity (5) inner psychological alignment (6) selfless purpose. And that's largely it.
Admittedly, he does suggest that the way for leaders to develop these qualities is through transpersonal coaching and he offers a new "Tools of Transpersonal Coaching" chapter. However, some of its content is a re-presentation of what was in the old "Coaching for Meaning" chapter. The rest is interesting in that it introduces (with little detail) the idea of sub-personalities and a transpersonal model of the psyche. However, I just do not think this all adds up to the "principles and practice of leadership". The principles and practice of modern coaching, yes, but not leadership per se.
In summary, if you are looking for a good book on coaching, this is one. But if you are looking for something to guide you in developing others as leaders (or developing yourself as a leader), for me, this isn't it. What would I recommend instead? If you want something that does address the principles and practice of leadership and gets into the leader's underlying psychology in more depth than Whitmore does, try James Scouller's "The Three Levels of Leadership". If you want just the principles and practice of leadership without the psychology, you cannot go far wrong with John Adair's classic, "Effective Leadership" although he puts less emphasis on values, vision, authenticity and servant leadership than Whitmore and Scouller.