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Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter Hardcover – September 4, 2012
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In his new book, Indispensable, Gautam Mukunda, of Harvard Business School, uses Lincoln to examine one of the liveliest debates in modern managementwhether insiders or outsiders make better bosses.” The Economist
These insights should now be of considerable help to the future development of aspiring executives and those who coach them, and to those responsible for selecting a CEO most suited to mastering a looming challenge.” Strategy and Leadership
Gautam Mukunda, with his book Indispensable and its cornerstone leader filtration theory (LFT), provides a significant new contribution to, first, organization studies in general and, second, leadership theory in particular.” Organization Studies, SAGE journals
Associations seeking a CEO will benefit from Mukunda's leadership research and examples, as well as his six guidelines for increasing the chances of a successful hire Mukunda's conclusions are likely to inspire rich dialogue among board members and CEOs.” Associations Now Magazine (asae: The Center for Association Leadership)
In reviewing the life of some of the greatest leaders in history, Gautam Mukunda offers us a vision of leadership that is fascinating and original.” Business Digest (France)
ADVANCE PRAISE for Indispensable:
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; author, The Better Angels of Our Nature and How the Mind Works
Indispensable is indispensablean eye-opening analysis of how we should evaluate leaders in our politics and our organizations, and a set of gripping narratives about some of the most fascinating people who have ever lived.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prizewinning author and presidential historian
Indispensable provides a masterly, absorbing, and exceptionally original approach to the age-old study of leadership.”
Clayton M. Christensen, bestselling author, The Innovator’s Dilemma
I have studied innovation and change from many dimensions. Somehow, however, I had simply assumed that the right leader can be selected to effect the changes required. Indispensable has taught me that I was woefully naive. This is a great book.”
Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman, President, and CEO, Merck & Co
Indispensable provides fascinating insights into how leaders are shaped by their unique personal and professional journeys and by the context of their times. Whether they were focused on saving countries, saving companies, or saving lives, the individuals profiled here are memorably illuminated through Mukunda’s sharp and engaging analysis.”
David Gergen, Professor of Public Service, Harvard Kennedy School; senior political analyst, CNN
Why do some leaders change the course of human events, while others find themselves not quite up to the task when history knocks? In a study that applies to business as well as to civil society and politics, Mukunda explores the filtration’ systems through which we choose our leaders, providing fresh and fascinating insights.”
About the Author
More About the Author
Before graduate school he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company, where he focused on the pharmaceutical sector. He is Founding Managing Director of The Two Rivers Group, a strategy consulting firm focusing on applying insights from academia to private and public sector problems. He is on the Board of Directors and Chair of the Mentorship Committee of The Upakar Foundation, a national non-profit devoted to providing college scholarships to underprivileged students of South Asian descent. He is a Paul & Daisy Soros New American Fellow, an NSF IGERT Fellow, and a Next Generation Fellow of The American Assembly. He has published articles on leadership, military innovation, network-centric warfare, and the security and economic implications of synthetic biology in Security Studies, Parameters, Politics and the Life Sciences, Systems and Synthetic Biology, and the Washington Post. His first book, Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter, was published by Harvard Business Review Press.
Top Customer Reviews
'Filtered' (came up through the system) leaders are most likely to fail when the situation changes to something completely different from when they were passing through the filter. Eg. Chamberlain's experiences did not prepare him for Hitler, and he failed badly. Outside CEOs can sometimes improve corporate performance, but only when brought into a company in trouble. (They're too much of a gamble, however, when the organization is doing well.) Desperation, not discomfort, should be the signal that the organization should gamble with an unfiltered leader.
However, every once in a while, someone inexperienced or appointed in an unusual way comes to power - this person has the potential to become an unconventional, powerful leader such as a Hitler or Churchill. These 'unfiltered' leaders, unproven in their area of leadership, are in most cases the ones who matter when history is written. They are the ones that turn out very good or very bad.
Want to see lots of 'unfiltered' leaders in action? Just look at most any start-up - driven by that leader's values and personal agenda.
Three factors minimize the impact of leaders: 1)An external environment in which competitors limit the leader's discretion. 2)Internal organizational dynamics, bureaucratic politics, or constituents' interests.Read more ›
It has two forms: Tight LFP (Modals) and Loose LFP (potential Extremes). Each form has defining characteristics. Mukunda juxtaposes the two in terms of major differences, according to six criteria: Length of career, frequency of evaluation, winner-take-all process, system's tolerance for failure, age of regime, and unique advantages. What occurred to as I read the introductory first chapter is how important [begin italics] context [end italics] is when determining which type of leader is needed at a given time, in the given circumstances, to achieve the given objective(s). High-impact leaders tend to be Extremes rather than Modals, whatever the nature and extent (if any) of their filtration may have been. That said, Mukunda suggests, "Unfiltered [or loosely filtered] leaders are likely to have impact [and they] will display more variance in performance than Filtered leaders." He tests his theory by examining the historical record and a rather diverse group of exemplars who include Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Edward Lindley Wood, Jacky Fisher, Al Dunlap, Jamie Dimon, and Judah Folkman.Read more ›
In support of this assertion, the author tells the stories of a number of prominent leaders, including:
* Thomas Jefferson, who was a filtered candidate for US president, and is regarded as one of the best presidents because of the Louisiana purchase, but any other president would have acted the same in the same circumstances
* Abraham Lincoln, who was an unfiltered presidential candidate whose idiosyncratic characteristics caused him to make decisions which other presidents would not have made
* Woodrow Wilson, an unfiltered presidential candidate whose idiosyncratic characteristics prevented him from achieving US ratification of the Treaty of Versailles
* Neville Chamberlain, a filtered candidate for prime minister of Great Britain, who was unsuitable as a war-time leader
* Winston Churchill, and unfiltered prime ministerial candidate, whose idiosyncratic characteristics were instrumental in leading Great Britain to victory in the second world war
According to the author, filtered leadership candidates - those who have extensive experience and have gone through a careful selection process - tend to do a competent but not exceptional job. Unfiltered candidates - those who achieve a leadership position without extensive screening - are more likely to be either very bad or very good.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mukunda's Leader Filtration Theory informs, but does not overwhelm the book. Never is there a moment in the book when it feels as though the author is fitting the facts to the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by David M. Land
An informative well thought out dissection of leadership and the circumstances that drive leadership development and decisions. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Alyssa Rosenbloom
A well-written book that both helps us understand our past and think about what we should be looking for in leaders for the future. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Lisa J Powell
For a long time I'd been utterly confused by the research on leadership. There's a great deal of literature showing leaders don't matter. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Eric Barker
There are miles and miles of bookshelves sagging under the weight of books that discuss leadership. It is rare when a new work arrives that sheds a new and illuminating light on... Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by Alan L. Chase
I was excited to read this book, and the review may be unfair, as I have not finished it, but that is only because I got bored reading it. Read morePublished on October 10, 2013 by Sal
This has some ok history exemplifying what I think is a not very useful academic theory. Leadership Filter Theory (LFT) selects leaders as filtered or not depending on a leader's... Read morePublished on June 26, 2013 by Gderf
This book was a great read and really opens up your mind on the different leaders we've come across in our lives and how the leaders from the past have shaped our world.Published on April 17, 2013 by Matthew G. Peppes