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High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders Hardcover – January 15, 1998


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High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders + Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job + The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875843360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875843360
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

You've got to love a business book that quotes John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, and Warren Bennis to illustrate the same point. --Journal of Business Strategy -- Journal of Business Strategy

From the Back Cover

High Flyers is a brilliant contribution to the study of leadership effectiveness. --Douglas A. Ready, President, International Consortium for Executive Development Research

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Lehrich on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Many celebrated leaders were high flyers. So was Icarus.
If experience teaches us anything, it's that we learn most effectively from experience. Such is the conclusion of Morgan McCall, whose years of work with leaders and organizations are encapsulated most recently in High Flyers. In McCall's view, leaders achieve success (and therefore promotion) because they have profited by experience, or at least proved themselves equipped to meet the challenges thrown at them. The emphasis here is on experience, not talent: although ability clearly plays a part in the ascent of the high flyer, it's the capacity and even eagerness to learn that distinguishes the eagle from the penguin.
Unfortunately, the shift from star-rise to nose-dive can strike even the highest flyer, and often does. Using extensive research and restrained gusto, McCall recounts cautionary tales of top corporate leaders, seemingly destined for greatness, who alarmingly and disastrously derailed. Initially successful for their track record, brilliance, commitment, charm, and/or ambition, these leaders were all perceived as having the "right stuff". However, as their power and authority increased, so did the importance of what McCall calls "the darker side of strengths", until - all too suddenly - the strengths became weaknesses, the arrogance and blind spots grew, the luck ended, and the house of cards came crashing down.
So what is to be done? McCall makes a persuasive case that if experience is the best teacher, then experience can be planned developmentally.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Armstrong on January 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author is a professor of management at USC, so his perspectives on leadership are limited to those qualities found in executives and in very large businesses that support the training of executives. The most helpful aspect of his book is that McCall urges large companies to develop systematic training for executive leaders, rather than leaving younger executives in a sink-or-swim situation. He also has a bias against ruthless, cut-throat competition and male testosterone-driven demonstrations of power and wealth that executives can get drawn into or promote.
Nevertheless, the book is limited: it says very little about leadership as a quality found in other people, other settings; implies that leadership is a unique quality of exceptional people that can be taught to those up-and-coming risers primarily; and supporting data is quite limited. He stumbles when he talks about leadership per se by using an example of a child violin prodigy, as if this child-becoming-virtuoso should be our model of leadership development.
It also is overwritten, the way stuff from Harvard Business School Press is overwritten: breathless, breathtaking, fawning over winners, etc.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ingmar M. Wienen on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
MCCALL INTRODUCES A MODEL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS, SUGGESTING THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE WILL LEARN THE NECESSARY LEADERSHIP SKILLS, IF THEY ARE EXPOSED TO THE RIGHT KIND OF EXPERIENCES, AND IF THEY RECEIVE THE RIGHT KIND OF SUPPORT IN THEIR LEARNING EFFORTS. HE POINTS OUT, THAT IT HAS TO BE THE BUSINESS STRATEGY AS DEFINED BY THE TOP-MANAGEMENT THAT DETERMINES WHICH LEADERSHIP SKILLS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANISATION, AND WHICH KIND OF EXPERIENCE WILL BE KEY FOR THE INTENDED PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT (188).
McCall starts by discussing the nature of leadership skills: are they a set of skills, that one either does have or not, or can they be learned? Based on his previous research he holds, that executive leaders are more made than born. Therefore he asserts that leadership potential can not be identified by looking for a profile of "competencies", but by looking for the ability to acquire the skills that will be needed in the future. Only this approach will insure leadership capability in a world of rapid change (4/5). McCall goes on by contrasting a "selection perspective" and a "developmental perspective". If leadership requirements are seen as a finite set of positive attributes, or "competencies", a leader either has them or not. Experience will be a test to verify whether one has them or not. On the other hand, if leadership requirements are seen as something that can come in multiple possibilities, a leader might obtain them, but also loose them, over time. Experience will be a source of the required attributes.
To build the case for a developmental perspective, McCall analyses "derailment" cases, were things went wrong.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
You will find a thoughtful, thorough process here for using a company's strategy to delineate what kind of leaders you will need, identify the leadership experiences that can create that type of leader, then to locate those who have the highest potential to develop those capabilities (those who learn rapidly and well), and to monitor progress. This is a very humane book that will help many avoid the painful career derailments that we read about all too often when a top performer suddenly crashes and burns in public.
By comparison, most companies are looking for executives with the right stuff for today, not the future. Then in a Darwinian process of survival of the fittest, those with the best track records win the leadership roles. Professor McCall points out a very serious flaw in this model, in that many people progress without developing any better leadership skills. With more and more success, leadership skill may actually drop as strengths and competencies are more and more likely to turn into weaknesses as they become exaggerated and weaknesses stay weak. He uses a detailed case history of Horst Schroeder, who was fired as president of Kellogg's after only 9 months, to make these points.
On the usually-correct assumption that your company has not yet brought this new model to bear, the author presents an excellent appendix for helping an individual executive to plan and implement one's own development.
"The message of High Flyers is that leadership ability can be learned, that creating a context that supports the development of talent can become a source of competitive advantage, and that the development of leaders is itself a leadership responsibility.
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