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Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus (2nd Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Michael A. Roberto
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Make better decisions! Michael A. Roberto will help you achieve deeper consensus, get past groupthink and "yes men," and achieve superior results in every decision you make -- especially your most complex and highest-stakes decisions! Roberto's Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer, Second Edition gives you a powerful framework for promoting honest, constructive dissent and skepticism; test your assumptions; more thoroughly and fairly considering "best alternatives"; crisply coming to closure; and aligning your entire organization behind the decision you make.


In this new edition, Roberto presents new cases from Google, Ford, and Intuit, and expands coverage to more deeply illuminate his decision-making approach. Offering both positive and negative examples, he presents a well rounded view of how to determine when 'yes' means 'yes', when it doesn't, and what to do when it doesn't. Throughout, Roberto demonstrates why "good process entails the astute management of the social, political and emotional aspects of decision making" -- in other words, why effective leaders are well served by carefully "deciding how to decide." You'll learn how to: 

  • Test and probe what your team really believes, and get the truth and candor you really need
  • Encourage constructive objections -- and keep them constructive
  • Improve team management, mitigate risk, identify opportunities, and promote integrity
  • Build stronger commitment amongst the people who'll implement your decisions

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Praise for the First Edition

Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer addresses a perennial and pernicious thorn in the leader’s side—the yes-men in every organization. (And if you think your company is without them, you really need this book!) Leaders at all levels can use Roberto’s advice to make better decisions and align their teams for results.”

KEN BLANCHARD, Coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Customer Mania


“Deciding how to decide is a powerful idea that all leaders should understand and put into practice. In doing so, they can become adept at stimulating candid dialogues, testing their company’s core assumptions, and achieving alignment. Roberto’s ideas have already begun to make a profound difference in the effectiveness of our management meetings. Our clients around the world would do well to adopt Roberto’s straightforward recommendations.”

ED BOSWELL, President and CEO, The Forum Corporation


“Too often leaders mistake silence for agreement. Roberto offers concrete advice on how to beat this trap. A must-read for leaders at all levels.”

KATHLEEN M. EISENHARDT, Stanford W. Ascherman M. D. Professor, Stanford University and Codirector, Stanford Technology Ventures Program


“In his book Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer, Roberto provides a unique and very enlightening look into the process of decision making. His thesis around ‘critical consensus building’ is worthwhile reading for any manager or entrepreneur that strives to be the most effective leader they can be.”

JONATHAN KRAFT, Vice Chairman, New England Patriots


“Unasked questions and undermined decisions are the two main reasons for corporate failure. To avoid these dangerous wrong turns, every executive should study Roberto’s clear road maps for making and implementing decisions.”

WILBUR L. ROSS, JR., Chairman of the Board, International Steel Group


Leaders still hear “yes” far too often—and they don’t hear bad news until it’s too late. They imagine they’ve achieved consensus, and then they find their decisions undermined by colleagues who never bought in. They become isolated, and even the most dangerous actions can go unquestioned. This remains an enormous problem for leaders and for the entire organization. But is it inevitable? Absolutely not.


In a new edition of his widely praised bestseller, Michael A. Roberto shows how to stimulate constructive debate that leads to better decisions, deeper consensus, and better results. Now reflecting new research and updated case studies, this edition also integrates more valuable guidance on benefiting from “devil’s advocacy” without introducing negativity or costly delay.


Throughout, Roberto offers powerful new insights into managing teams, mitigating risk, and even promoting ethics through effective governance. Whether you’re a senior executive or a project team member, this book will help you leverage your organization’s immense untapped wisdom to optimize both decisions and performance.



Systematically diagnosing, evaluating, and improving your decision-making processes



Reaching the right decision without micromanaging its content



Promoting the right conflicts—the ones that lead to clarity and progress



Using fair and legitimate processes to achieve closure that’s real, not fake

About the Author

Michael Roberto is the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He has served on the faculty at Harvard Business School and as a visiting professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Over the past decade, Professor Roberto has held a position on the faculty of the Nomura School of Advanced Management in Tokyo, where he teaches an executive program each summer.


Professor Roberto’s previous book, Know What You Don’t Know (Pearson/Financial Times, 2009) addresses how leaders can become more effective problem finders. He has created two best-selling audio and video lecture series for The Great Courses ( The Art of Critical Decision Making , 2009, and Transformational Leadership , 2011). His articles have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review , MIT Sloan Management Review , and California Management Review.


Professor Roberto’s research and teaching have earned several major awards. The Everest Leadership and Team Simulation earned an MITX Interactive Award for Best E-Learning Solution in 2011. Columbia’s Final Mission , a multimedia case study about the 2003 space shuttle accident, garnered the software industry’s prestigious Codie Award in 2006. On the teaching front, Professor Roberto is a seven-time winner of the Outstanding MBA Teaching Award at Bryant University. He has been awarded Harvard’s Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics on two occasions. Professor Roberto received an AB with honors from Harvard College, an MBA with High Distinction from Harvard Business School, and a doctorate from the Harvard Business School.


Professor Roberto lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Kristin, and his three children, Luke, Celia, and Grace.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2355 KB
  • Print Length: 346 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0133095118
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: FT Press; 2 edition (May 2, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CM9V826
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,867 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading for those who want to improve themselves. December 29, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Self analysis, looking at your own faults and trying to improve your self to be more useful to the society is my favorite. Author has beautifully illustrated moral courage, sense of propriety and desire to excel. It is very easy to say yes. It requires some courage to say no. Any great leader, even if he does not admit it or like it , likes to have people who can say no. Only tyrant will have yes man surrounding him. Good reading
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most important attributes of a great leader October 12, 2013
This is the second edition of a book first published in 2005. In my review of that edition, I noted a strong recurring theme: "leaders must strive for a delicate balance of assertiveness and restraint." One challenge is to be able to do either effectively. Another, greater challenge is to know when each approach should be taken. In this context, Michael Roberto has much of value to say about great leaders as great teachers: "They prepare to decide just as teachers prepare to teach. They have a plan, but they adapt as the decision-making process unfolds. Great leaders do not have all the answers, but they remain firmly in control of the process through which their organizations discover the best answers to the toughest problems."

Why a second edition? Roberto: "This new edition includes the findings from new research by me and other scholars around the world. It also incorporates what I have learned through the development and delivery of leadership development programs at many companies around the world. You will see new examples, case studies, and research findings throughout the book." Of course, a book published eight years ago was probably written 9-12 years ago. So much has happened in the global business world since then. Also, Roberto has presumably received substantial feedback from those who have read the book as well as from others who have participated in the aforementioned leadership development programs.

Many years ago, one of Albert Einstein's Princeton colleagues playfully chided him for asking the same questions each year on his final examinations. Einstein replied, "Quite right. Each year, the answers are different.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight September 24, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Required textbook. It is really insightful regarding preventing further toxic work environments, and how to prevent them as leaders, and promote healthy candid conflict.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good April 29, 2014
By eric
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is very useful book. I learnd a lot of knowledge from this book. It is very nice. I love it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars I thought the text was bland and repetitive. The ... December 14, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought the text was bland and repetitive. The entirety of the text could probably be summarized on two pages, most of the bulk is example after example of every idea.
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More About the Author

I am the Trustee Professor of Management at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. I joined the tenured faculty at Bryant after serving for six years on the faculty at Harvard Business School. I love my family, Boston sports teams, teaching, Italy, history, gardening, and cooking.


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