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on June 8, 2000
There are many studies of leadership from almost as many perspectives. Howard Gardner focuses on the leader as creator, teller and living exponent of a story, and makes an overwhelming case for the centrality of this function in leadership, and its complement, countering the counter-stories that exist in the organisation. Leaders who understand and use this book will add greatly to their effectiveness.
The idea of the leader as living exponent of a story is combined with the concept of the 'five year old mind'. Simply put, even sophisticated people are not sophisticated in all domains. In other domains, the common denominator of shared understanding is the 'five year old mind', the five year old having a very concrete, literal and emotionally based understanding of the world. For success, a leader should know how to appeal to the five year old mind, as well as to more sophisticated audiences.
There are three parts - and do not miss the preface to the paperback edition. The first is 'A Framework for leadership', which states the main thesis.
"When one thinks of the leader as a story-teller, whose stories must wrestle with those that are already operative in the mind of an audience, one obtains a powerful way of conceptualizing the work of leading. It is important for leaders to know their stories, to get them straight, to communicate them effectively, and, above all, to embody in their lives the stories that they tell."
The second part consists of case studies of people who exemplify leadership across various domains. It includes examples from each of his two classes of leaders (direct leaders who engage directly with others in action, and indirect leaders (like Einstein) who influence others through their impact on how people see the world).
The third looks forward and summarises the enduring lessons for leadership. The principles that he extracts are both important and practical.
Approached as a guide to exercise of leadership, the case studies can be `dipped into', while Parts one and three are studied for their messages. If necessary, save the case studies for your holidays, because they are well chosen, brilliantly told and make fascinating reading.
It is a book that is not only valuable for the way it treats its core theme. It also provides an immensely fertile starting point for thinking about related issues of change. I first read it during a period in which I was intensely engaged in promoting cultural change in a large organisation and was able to relate very directly to Gardner's analysis and find direct value in his prescriptions.
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on March 18, 2000
Brilliant! Howard Gardner and Emma Laskins' LEADING MINDS : AN ANATOMY OF LEADERSHIP is simply Brilliant! Their rigorous analysis of Leadership and wonderful case studies of several contemporary leaders is enthralling. One, if not the, most interesting and insightful investigations into the topic of Leadership.
Howard Gardner, himself a leader in the area of Multiple Intelligences, brings his profound insight on the human mind to a much written about but poorly understood topic of Leadership. Gardner and Laskins' identify six key constants of Leadership including:
1. A Story - Leaders must have a central message or story that speaks directly to the "unschooled mind."
2. An Audience - There must be an audience to act upon the message.
3. An Organization - To endure, leaders must have some type of organizational basis.
4. The Embodiment - To be effective, a leader must be able to "walk the talk."
5. Direct and Indirect Leadership - Leaders have options to exert their influence either indirectly or directly.
6. Expertise - In order for leaders to obtain any credibility, they must be experts within their domain.
Their case studies excellently illustrate and humanize their theory on Leadership. I, as one of the multitude of "unschooled minds", found the stories of contemporary leaders deeply compelling. I have gained a new and deeper appreciation for Margaret Mead, Pope John XXIII, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I now have an intense desire to learn as much as possible regarding the lives and tremendous contributions of all three of these Leaders.
The case studies provide a much needed, if unintended, comical relief to this serious topic. The authors, while strongly emphasizing the benefits of inclusionary leadership and the perils of good vs evil stories that appeal to the "unschooled mind", themselves engage in exclusionary stories of good vs evil by lionizing those of the same political ideology as themselves and demonize those of differing political viewpoints. It delightfully humanizes the authors and candidly displays that even the "schooled mind" may, on occasion, fall prey to the biases of the "unschooled mind."
Buy this Book! Treat yourself and explore this fascinating topic of Leadership. I would also strongly recommend two other books by Howard Gardner, FRAMES OF MIND: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and CREATING MINDS : An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. On the topic of Leadership, I highly recommend John Kotter's LEADING CHANGE and WHAT LEADERS REALLY DO.
Thomas I. Amadio
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This is the first book that I read by Howard Gardner, and I now find myself reading all of his books. Before reading this book, I had noticed that the most effective people I know are good story tellers who live their lives in a way that is consistent with their stories. But I had failed to appreciate that this is the core of effective leadership. As you can imagine, I began polishing up my story-telling and story-living skills. This has made an enormous difference in how I am able to connect with others and draw enjoyment from being with people. One example is that I have changed the way I write, and I find that the messages are much better understood now than before. Whether your interest is in politics, your local charity, your work, or your own family, you will get enough insights from this book to keep you excited as you improve your life for years to come. I also like the way that Professor Gardner made it clear what future research needs to be done, so that we can learn even more. I hope that someone reading this review will decide to take up some of this needed research. A good book to read after this one is CREATING MINDS. I also find the UNSCHOOLED MIND to be very valuable, and we cite it in our book about how to overcome stalled thinking.
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I bought this book sometime after concluding that national intelligence leadership needed to inspire and appeal to the citizens of the USA at large, rather than being so narrowly focused on staying out of trouble with Congress while collecting secrets. This book reviews leadership of both domains and nations, with case studies on Margaret Mead (Culture), J. Robert Oppenheimer (Physics), Robert Maynard Hutchins (Education), Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. (Business), George C. Marshall (Military), Pope John XXII (Religion), Eleanor Roosevelt (Ordinariness and Extraordinariness), Martin Luther King (Minority) and Margaret Thatcher (National). The best leaders that emerge are those who are willing to confront authority and take risk, while also creating networks of contacts that number in the hundreds or thousands rather than tens. Most tellingly, aleader in a discipline (e.g. intelligence) only emerges as a long-term leader if he finally realizes that "he is more likely to achieve his personal goals or to satisfy his community if he addresses a wider audience than if he remains completely within a specific domain." The six constants of leadership are the story, the audience (beginning with a message for the unschooled mind), the organization, the embodiment, a choice between direct (more practical) and indirect (more reflective and often more enduring) leadership, and a paradox-the direct leaders often lack knowledge while the indirect leaders often have greater knowledge, and transferring knowledge from the indirect leader to the direct leader may be one of the central challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.
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This time in collaboration with Emma Laskin, Gardner has again produced a remarkably entertaining as well as informative book, one in which he takes a cognitive approach when examining eleven great leaders: Margaret Mead, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., George C. Marshall, Pope John XXIII, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Thatcher, Jean Monnet, and Mahatma Gandhi.
As Gardner observes in his Introduction: "Our understanding of the nature and processes of leadership is most likely to be enhanced as we come to understand better the arena in which leadership necessarily occurs -- namely, the [in italics] human mind. Perhaps this characterization should be pluralized as [in italics] human minds, since I am concerned equally with the mind of the leader and the minds of the followers (whom I sometimes refer to as [in italics] audience members or [in italics] collaborators). Accordingly, this book is a sustained examination, first, of the ways in which leaders of different types achieve varying degrees of success in characterizing and resolving important life issues in their own minds and, second, of how, in parallel or in turn, they attempt to alter the minds of their various audiences to effect desired changes."
What we have here is a sequence of absolutely brilliant analyses of 11 exceptional leaders in quite diverse fields of engagement. As he did in Creating Minds (when analyzing the lives and achievements of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi), Gardner somehow maintains a delicate balance when respecting (indeed celebrating) the unique genius of leadership of Mead, Oppenheimer, Hutchins, Sloan, Marshall, Pope John XXIII, Roosevelt, King, Thatcher, Monnet, and Gandhi while at the same time explaining how each used the linguistic as well as non-linguistic resources at her or his disposal when attempting to communicate with and thereby convince others of "a particular view, a clear vision of life. The term story [in italics] is the best way to convey this point."
For Gardner, the story is "a basic cognitive form; the artful creation and articulation of stories [or messages] constitutes a fundamental part of the leader's vocation. Stories speak to both parts of the human mind -- its reason and emotion. And I suggest, further, that it is [in italics] stories of identity -- narratives that help individuals think about and feel who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed -- that constitute the single most powerful weapon in the leader's literary arsenal."
It is worth noting that, since the publication of this book, Gardner has become increasingly aware of the importance of understanding and grappling with the "counter-stories" that often loom so large in the minds of the audience. The most effective leaders understand the counter-story and address effectively the questions it raises. As indicated to those who visit Gardner's GoodWork Web site, his on-going studies of intelligence, creativity, and leadership are all conducted in an amoral way-- that is, human capacities can be used for good or ill. For example, Mandela vs Milosevic. Gardner is now trying to understand how human intelligence(s) and creativity can be yoked to serve the wider good.
In Part I of this book, Gardner establishes a framework for leadership, then (in Part II) shifts his attention to case studies which focus on nine of the eleven leaders; In Part III, he focuses on Monnet and Gandhi who illustrate "leadership that looks forward." In the final chapter, Gardner reviews "lessons from the past" and then suggests "implications for the future." I am grateful for the two appendices which follow: a chart which presents "The Eleven Leaders Viewed along Principal Dimensions of Leadership" and another chart on which Gardner records brief comments on ten "Leaders of the Second World War." Those in need of recommended sources for further study are provided with an extensive Bibliography.
The eleven men and women whom Gardner discusses in this book do indeed comprise an unusual combination. Although each is uniquely different from the other ten, all (in Gardner's words) by word and/or personal example, markedly influence the behaviors, thoughts, and/or significant feelings of a significant number of their fellow human beings. The leaders' voices affected their worlds, and, ultimately, our world." For me, it is essentially irrelevant how many persons comprise such a group nor do I have a quarrel with any of those whom Gardner selected. All are eminently worthy. Gardner has his own thoughts as to what lessons can be learned from their lives, of course, but it remains for each reader to make her or his own determination of that. Thanks to Gardner, there is a wealth of information to consider when doing so. He is indeed a brilliant teller of "stories."
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read Gardner's earlier work, the aforementioned Creating Minds. Moreover, because they are not included among the works listed in the Bibliography, I presume to recommend, also, Albert Borgmann's Holding On to Reality and Gerald M. Edelman's Bright Air, Brilliant Fire.
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on August 15, 2012
This is an interesting book, though it innovates less than the author claims (page 280). Many important insights are presented. But the core issues of leadership are not taken up.
I will not dwell on doubtful statements, such as speculations on leaders losing their father while young (page 270), trust in the public recognizing after some time unauthentic leaders (277), "totalitarian impulses" of de Gaulle (page 232), and the right of leaders to privacy (page 283). Rather, my problem with the book is its focus on garnering of a following by effective communication of a story (page 59) - while claiming to do much more.
The author states correctly that a fundamental issue facing leaders is "how to understand the world in its complexity and subtlety, and yet communicate directly to dispersed individuals with limited expertise" (page 104). But he does not discuss how leaders can improve their understanding of the world. And the critical role of rulers in shaping the future and the capacities of the mind required for doing so well are not taken up. Instead, the book concentrates on "story telling" and related external features of leadership behavior (page 286).
The need for time to think is mentioned, but this is all. Not a word on qualities f the mind essential for good leaders, such as uncertainty-sophistication, thinking-in-history, and an "internal citadel." Even a discussion of the "intelligences" needed by leaders, which is to be expected from the expertness of the author, is missing.
Towards the end the book mentions some features of "an exemplary leader" (page 269 ff.). But, again, essential core qualities of the mind are ignored. Therefore most of this book is more relevant for those concerned with the techniques of leaders than with upgrading their substantive qualities.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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on November 6, 1998
This is a superb book and I have incorporated it as a text into one of my leadership classes. Part I presents a very clear set of definitions, defines the dimensions of leadership, and provides a useful definition of how leaders make use of stories. The case studies are well selected and documented, and the summaries tying them together are well executed. Gardner presents a well balanced view of his conclusions and his statements are well supported. The first appendix provides a very useful summary index of the leaders, cross referenced to the dimension of leadership Gardner identifies. The book covers a great deal of material in a readable, clear, and concise manner. A good addition to any library on leadership.
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on August 3, 2004
Gardner does something very rare in the leadership literature...he provides a book with practical ideas based on solid research and scholarship. Where many leadership books present only one person as a role model, Gardner uses a range of examples from a variety of areas to develop a simple but effective model of how to be an effective leader.
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on May 17, 1999
Leading Minds is an enjoyable, thought provoking book for those interested in leadership. The life stories of selected leaders of the 20th century provide background and insight to the question of effectiveness and success in leadership roles. Reading other books by Gardner, such as the Unschooled Mind and Creating Minds will provide the reader a better understanding of Gardner's analysis of leadership. In his final summary, the connection of 'lessons from the past, implications for the future' is very instructive for people in current leadership positions.
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on January 18, 1999
Gardner finally does something with leadership that's unique--he tells us what we don't know about it rather than just putting what we know in different words. I teach management in a graduate program in public administration, and I also serve as an elected official in a university town in the midwest. Gardner knows what he is talking about. The concept of leadership as storytelling is compelling. And after reading about the "unschooled mind," I read his focusing on that subject. It wasn't worth it. There is plenty in Leading Minds. I love the chapter long biographies as well. He does a masterful job.
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