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The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Steven Sample, who assumed the presidency of an already upwardly mobile university and made it that much better, does not disappoint. His chapter entitled "Work for Those Who Work for You" really hit home. I've always believed that managers and leaders should empower their people and set them up for success. This approach frequently requires that I perform some rather mundane tasks like making phone calls and sending out meeting requests. But according to Sample, that's what real leaders should be doing. "Virtually all leadership experts, whether they subscribe to traditional or au courant theories, depict leadership as a glamorous and majestic calling. But the contrarian isn't fooled. He knows that effective day-to-day leadership isn't so much about himself, as it is about the men and women he chooses to be his chief lieutenants. He knows that a lot of the things on his own plate will be minutiae and silliness, while his lieutenants will get to do the fun and important things."
This book is exceptionally Western; that is, there are numerous references to Machiavelli (including an entire chapter), Clausewitz, and Plato, for instance, but none to Confucius, Lao Tzu, or Sun Tzu. I was somewhat surprised by this if only because Sample, throughout his tenure as president of USC, has consistently reached out to the Pacific Rim.Read more ›
The first few chapters of Sample's book make clear that leadership comes from common-sensical values such as nurturing the growth of lieutenants and maintaining open communication lines with those lieutenants. For instance, Sample makes clear that undermining lietenants' authority or cutting off their communication to the leader spells sure death to the leader. This seems commensensical enough, and I doubt Sample is the first one to make this point.
What is "contrarian" is Sample's choice of inspiration: Machiavelli. Instead of responding to other "leadership" materials, Sample spins out a personal philosophy of leadership based on a selective reading of Machiavelli. Sample would like his readers to prioritize Machiavelli and other "supertexts" to the exclusion of pat, journalistic answers to leadership and management style. Fair enough. The exiled Florentine, Shakespeare and Plato make great teachers, and it's probably time that managers revisit them after being 20 years in the work force. These (Western) supertexts provide timeless lessons that are more digestable and practical than Sun Tzu et al.
While Sample's reading of Machiavelli puts a good spin on an unpalatable text, Sample makes the point that leadership is not for idealists. You've got to get your hands dirty, make unpopular decisions, and "give the devil his due.Read more ›
Well, one of the highlights is a section on what the author calls "supertexts". Great leaders ought to read the classics. Really. Forget newspapers and especially trade publications and read the story of Jesus in Matthew, the story of Paul in Acts, the story of Moses in Exodus, read Plato, Hamlet, Dante's Divine Comedy, etc., as understanding the human condition is far more valuable than the latest news articles or trade flash. This is a radical concept and a rare one coming from a leadership and business approach. It is summarized as "you are what you read". A novel and unique approach on what enables good leadership.
I also loved the sections on "knowing which hill you are willing to die on" and the "art of listening. Both provide an enlightened view of well-covered topics.
Overall, the book presents some great points but ultimately ends in the leadership paradox. Few can really articulate this well and fewer still can solve this paradox in practice.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this book as a part of Leadership class I was taking. I was amazed how moving and powerful this book but at the same time so simple to read and understand. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Boris
If you don't believe in thinking outside the box, don't buy this book. Otherwise, this IS A MUST READ!Published 1 month ago by Michael Van Sickle
This is simply a great book on leadership. I found the book quite compelling and the management stories were applicable to my management world in a healthcare startup. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Carl Myers
Steven B. Sample, the tenth president of USC, and past president of other notable universities brought to us a great book about leadership. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Freddy C.
I'm amazed that others have rated this book above one star. Sample is full of himself, no doubt, and credits himself as a fundraiser. Read morePublished 5 months ago by James A. Thorson
I bought this book for a leadership class. I honestly thought it would be another repetitive leadership book. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Natalie
Is there anything in there about how to duck to avoid the shards flying from a broken lamp in your dorm room that some really huge guy just smashed with a chain? Read morePublished 8 months ago by Tim Rigney