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Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn from Experience to Become a Great Leader Hardcover – February 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591391377
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591391371
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"As someone who has participated in the journey of a company that has grown from $4 million to $40 billion, I believe the core premise of this book rings true. The skills derived from facing one's own "crucibles" are powerful tools for growing one's business." --Brad Anderson, Vice Chairman and CEO, Best Buy Co., Inc.

"Thomas displays exceptional understanding of the complex forces at work in any leader's career. Crucibles of Leadership provides a crisp road map to leading more effectively." --Jeff Wilke, Senior Vice President, Amazon.com

"Robert Thomas has written the organizational playbook for transforming management into leadership.The critical elixir? Learning from those times when one's leadership was on the line." --Michael Useem, William and Jacalyn Egan Professor and Director, Center for Leadership and Change Management, The Wharton School

About the Author

Robert J. Thomas is Executive Director of Accenture's Institute for High Performance Business and Galvin Professor of Leadership at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He co-authored Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values and Defining Moments Shape Leaders with Warren Bennis.

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Customer Reviews

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Extremely useful and actionable.
D. Jacobson
After reading one book of category 1, all of the others begin to sound the same.
Yoon Lee
Outstanding leaders devise a strategy for transforming crucibles into learning.
Walter H. Bock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Jacobson on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Robert Thomas' new book The Crucibles of Leadership is probably one of the most important books on leadership development written in the past several years. We have known for decades that a huge percentage of leadership learning comes from challenging and varied experiences (see The Lessons of Experience, by Lombardo et al). However, there has been virtually no work done on HOW people learn from those experiences. That is a key issue, as some people learn a great deal from those varied and challenging experiences, while others do not.

Robert Thomas has addressed this key gap in the literature on leadership by shining a light into the black box of what he calls "crucible" experiences. After interviewing close to 200 highly effective leaders, Thomas found several key patterns to how they had learned to lead from challenging experiences that had made them stretch. The common denominator he found is that they all had a personal learning strategy that enabled them to systematically learn from challenging experiences. He then walks the reader through a reflective process the leads to the development of a personal learning strategy. Extremely useful and actionable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Kroese on October 7, 2002
Format: Digital
Warren G. Bennis is distinguished professor of business administration at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Robert J. Thomas is an associate partner and senior fellow with the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change. This article was published in the September 2002 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Why are some people natural leaders, while others fail time and time again? It is a timeless question without a simple answer. Based on interviews with more than 40 top leaders, the authors conclude that one of the most reliable indicators "is an individual's ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances." The authors term these intense, often traumatic, always unplanned experiences that shape leaders as 'crucibles', "after the vessels medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold." These leadership crucibles can take different shapes and forms. One of the most common types of crucibles involves the experience of prejudice. And some of the harshest crucible experiences illuminate a hidden and suppressed area of the soul (for instance, episodes of illness or violence). But, luckily, not all crucible experiences are traumatic. They can involve a positive, if deeply challenging, experience such as having a demanding boss or mentor. So, how do leaders cope and learn from these difficult situations? Bennis and Thomas believe that great leaders possess four essential skills: (1) The ability to engage others in shared meaning; (2) A distinctive and compelling voice; (3) A sense of integrity (including a strong set of values); and (4) "Adaptive capacity". They see this fourth skill as by far most critical skill.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Walter H. Bock on June 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In 2002, Robert Thomas (the author of this book) and Warren Bennis discovered something important about how leaders developed. They had set out to determine the differences and similarities between young leaders (geeks) and older leaders (geezers).

But the key finding of their book, Geeks and Geezers, turned out to be the importance of the defining moments that shape leaders. Thomas and Bennis called those moments "crucibles."

Crucibles are emotionally charged situations that produce great learning and growth in some leaders. This was something a lot of us knew intuitively, but no one had ever stated or supported with research.

Once upon a time we believed that you could learn leadership from books and classes. Then, slowly, it dawned on the leadership development community that you can learn about leadership from a book or in class, but you learn leadership on the job.

Some of us call that the Apprenticeship Model. And the "academy companies" like GE, Pepsico, and P & G have taken to it with gusto. They've made developmental assignments a core part of their leadership development programs.

Robert Thomas decided to dig deeper into the phenomenon of crucibles. This book shares the results of that research. There are four key findings.

Crucibles contain two vital lessons, not just one. The second lesson is how to learn.

Practice can trump talent.

Outstanding leaders devise a strategy for transforming crucibles into learning.

Organizations can grow leaders faster by helping them learn from experience.

The book is divided into three parts. The first, Experience Matters--But Then What? includes the first four chapters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Robert Thomas is the co-author with Warren Bennis of Geeks & Geezers, later reissued as Leading for a Lifetime with a new introduction. In it, he and Bennis respond to this question: "Why are some people able to extract wisdom from experience, however harsh, and others are not?" They asked successful geeks to share the secrets of their youthful triumphs and distinguished geezers to tell them how they continue to stay active and engaged despite the changes wrought by age. They selected and then interviewed a group of 43 effective leaders, ranging in age from 21 to 93. Their research also included others who were not interviewed. As many as possible of the interviews were videotaped because Bennis and Thomas knew that "taping would preserve a wealth of information that no transcript could capture."

They developed a theory that describes, they believe for the first time, how leaders come to be. "We believe that we have identified the process that allows an individual to undergo testing and to emerge, not just stronger, but better equipped with the tools he or she needs both to lead and to learn. It is a model that explains how individuals make meaning out of difficult events -- we call them [begin italics] crucibles [end italics] -- and how that process of 'meaning making' both galvanizes individuals and gives them their distinctive voice." They cite and then discuss a number of individuals who underwent that process and, as a result, became highly-effective leaders.
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