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Leadership Without Easy Answers Hardcover – August 21, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674518582 ISBN-10: 0674518586 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (August 21, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674518586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674518582
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Heifetz (Kennedy Sch. of Government, Harvard Univ.) presents a new theory of leadership for both public and private leaders in tackling complex contemporary problems. Central to his theory is the distinction between routine technical problems, which can be solved through expertise, and adaptive problems, such as crime, poverty, and educational reform, which require innovative approaches, including consideration of values. Four major strategies of leadership are identified: to approach problems as adaptive challenges by diagnosing the situation in light of the values involved and avoiding authoritative solutions, to regulate the level of stress caused by confronting issues, to focus on relevant issues, and to shift responsibility for problems from the leader to all the primary stakeholders. The theory is applied to an analysis of historical accounts of local, national, and international events. An innovative and thoroughgoing work; highly recommmended for graduate and undergraduate collections.
Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict Lib., St. Joseph, Minn.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Leadership Without Easy Answers is a masterwork of great subtlety, and of punch and practicality. Leadership is not value-free, Mr. Heifetz writes...[The author puts] soul and values squarely back into a vital topic, leadership. (Tom Peters New York Times Book Review)

Ronald Heifetz brings knowledge of an astonishingly wide range of disciplines to this study of leadership...As a musician, a cellist, he understands that the quality of a performance depends on the audience as well as on the instrumentalist...As a psychiatrist, Heifetz understands that communities cannot be pushed beyond their capacity to adapt...These insights give to Heifetz's book an originality and vivacity one rarely associates with studies on leadership. He illustrates his theses with an extraordinary range of cases and examples...Leadership Without Easy Answers reminds us of democracy's rich potential. It is a bold book and an encouraging one. I hope some of our leaders are out there learning. (Shirley Williams Times Higher Education Supplement)

This pioneering study constitutes one of the most insightful and innovative approaches to leadership studies in over a decade...Heifetz masterfully presents his new leadership model by intertwining general theory and prescriptive practical guidance through fertile historical and work-place case studies. Heifetz's goal is nothing less than a summoning for a new social contract that seeks to revitalize America's civic ethos by adopting leadership strategies to empower the citizenry rather than to merely enhance the authority of the leader...The upshot of this study should place it in the front line in leadership historiography for years to come. (R. J. Lettieri Choice)

Heifetz presents a new theory of leadership for both public and private leaders in tackling complex contemporary problems. Central to his theory is the distinction between routine technical problems, which can be solved through expertise, and adaptive problems, such as crime, poverty, and educational reform, which require innovative approaches, including consideration of values. Four major strategies of leadership are identified: to approach problems as adaptive challenges by diagnosing the situation in light of the values involved and avoiding authoritative solutions, to regulate the level of stress caused by confronting issues, and to shift responsibility for problems from the leader to all the primary stakeholders. The theory is applied to an analysis of historical accounts of local, national, and international events. An innovative and thoroughgoing work; highly recommended. (Library Journal)

Ronald Heifetz has written an interesting and timely book, in which he moves away from the idea of leaders as visionaries and saviors to stressing leadership as an activity as opposed to a position of authority or a set of personal charcateristics. (Robert Hooijberg Journal of Leadership Studies)

A superb book for any age, but particularly for our current one, where society is so desperately in need of its wisdom and expertise. Leadership without Easy Answers should be required reading for top managers in all sectors--private, public, and nonprofit. I hope it will also be widely read by the citizenry that is so much in need of an attitude shift on the nature of authority. This book is also very much about citizenship. (M. Scott Peck, Author of The Road Less Traveled)

Alive with insights, concepts, new ideas, just teeming with the kind of creative approach to the study of leadership that I and of course many others esteem. In a field in which there has been a great deal of repetitious work, Heifetz strikes out in ground-breaking directions. (James MacGregor Burns, Author of Leadership)

Remarkably thoughtful, provocative, and useful. This book will be seen as a major contribution that provides a rare interdisciplinary view of leadership in context. Leaders as well as serious students of the process of leadership and the development of leaders need to have this book on their shelves. (General Walter Ulmer, U. S. Army (Ret.), President and CEO, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, North Carolina)

Heifetz turns out to be one of the most thoughtful scholars on leadership. His direct and relevant concepts are pathbreaking. (James David Barber, Author of Presidential Character)

Original and penetrating in its analysis of leadership. This is an excellent book. Important and valuable. (John Gardner, former Secretary HEW, Founder of Common Cause)

Leadership without Easy Answers should go a long way toward clearing up many confusions about leadership. Long a master teacher of leaders, Heifetz's courses and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government have been standing-room only for years. Read this book and see why. (Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline)

More About the Author

Ron Heifetz is a cofounder and Principal of Cambridge Leadership Associates and the author of numerous books on adaptive leadership, with over fifty years of teaching and leadership consulting experience between them.

Customer Reviews

I have only read the book once so far, but immediately started rereading it.
Jeff SKI Kinsey
The leader must apply enough pressure to bring people together to solve problems even if they have competing interests and ideas.
C. B Collins Jr.
The book is a must read for any student of leadership as well as all practitioners.
Peter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By JB on November 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you're tired of the quick leadership fad books (10 steps to becoming a great leader, Leadership Lessons of So and So, etc) then this book is for you. We all take it for granted that we know what Leadership is. Heifetz does an excellent job of questioning our traditional assumptions of leadership by making a distinction between leadership and positions of authority. Too often we mistaken positions of authority as being leaders but in reality we all know many people who are leaders who aren't in positions of authority as well as people who are in positions of authority that we would never consider to be leaders.
Authority is confered power to perform a service - it's an expectation or a series of expectations. In this way, authority can be given and taken away. Heifetz describes two different kinds of authority: formal and informal. Formal authority is given to a person through a contract, job description, legislation, etc. Informal authority is given or taken away by the community to the person in authority - often its unspoken expecations. You can see this interaction all the time - for instance a teacher has the formal authority to instruct the class but students may not give the teacher the authority (informal) to do that and will not pay attention. Often you have to increase your informal authority in order to exercise your formal authority. In the work place you can see this play out too where a person may have positional authority but the subordinates don't respect that authority.
Heifetz explores leadership with a number of psychology tools. For instance, he makes constant reference to a "holding environment" which has it orgins in psychoanalysis.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Armstrong on May 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I do not want to repeat what the above Amazon reviewers have already said. Nevertheless, I think Heifetz's Leadership Without Easy Answers is the best book on the modern theory of leadership around.
Heifetz integrates "great man/great woman" (trait) theories of leadership with "great times" (situational) theories, and defines "leadership" as "an activity that fosters adaptive work and addresses the value conflicts that people hold." He distinguishes "technical" problems that may not require leadership (adaptive work) from "adaptive problems" which people experience as threatening to themselves or their group. (The conflict over abortion, for instance, can be seen as an adaptive problem, because it represents a value conflict that provokes work-avoidance--scapegoating, dishonesty, polarizing conversations, etc.)
Heifetz sees leadership as being "practical" and "authentic", and the leader is always working towards using authority (formal and informal) to help members of contesting groups arrive at solutions that promote fundamental values (such as democracy, equality before the law, freedom).
This book is not a "how-to" book and does not promote charismatic leadership (which the author would view as largely work-avoidance and dependency-fostering). Heifetz is an excellent writer and communicates well with both academics and interested citizens.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Lehrich on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Do you doubt your insight? Are you worried that you don't know all the answers? Do you find you can't solve the hard problems alone? Are you - heaven forfend - a leader who lacks vision?
Good. That's the way you're supposed to be. For as Ronald Heifetz argues in this now-famous work, leadership is not an exercise in imposing one's vision and values on others, but the daily practice of clarifying the values already held by the community. Rather than inveigle or inveigh until people are seduced by a point of view, leaders must "engage people in facing the challenge, adjusting their values, changing perspectives, and developing new habits of behavior." In other words, a leader doesn't influence a community to follow his vision; a leader influences the community to address its problems.
This is a lot of responsibility, for leader and community alike. At the heart of Leadership without Easy Answers lies Heifetz's notion of "adaptive work." The true tough problems - civil rights, adjusting to cancer, factories that produce both jobs and pollution - require responses that everyone can accept, learning that enables them to face harsh realities and conflicts. Rather than coerce people into superficially easy remedies or pretend problems don't exist, leaders guide communities to articulate their own values, interpret them in the context of critical questions, test their realities, and discover solutions that will almost certainly require their values and behaviors to be adjusted. It is the people who must find the solutions that they will be expected to carry out; the leader (with or without authority) is the one who identifies the challenge, focuses attention, and puts pressure on the people to work on problems at a rate they can stand.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Armstrong on June 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Heifetz creates a psychological-social-political theory of leadership, which he defines as "an activity" that allows for "adaptive work." Leadership is the work that points out discrepancies beetween what we say we do, and what we actually do; or between our values (democracy, inclusion) and our actions. Leadership ultimately involves reconciling our values to our behavior. Leadership is not merely finding "technical" solutions to "adaptive problems," but, instead, is about finding more congruence (for both leaders and followers) between what they say and hope, and what they do.
The author's writing is very clear.
I most liked his simple phrasing of complex issues; how the threads through the incomplete theories of leadership (Carlyle, James MacGregor Burns); his practical orientation; his emphasis on followers' responsibility; his way of describing how leadership fails; and his notions of leadership succession. I also liked that this is not a "how to do" leadership book (the "ten best ways to be a leader" genre) aimed at a particular audience (business leaders, educational leaders), but, instead, is a thought-provoking discussion of ideas about leadership.
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