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Leading Quietly [Hardcover]

by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr.
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 11, 2002 0486634159 978-1578514878 1
Most of us think of leaders as courageous risk takers, orchestrators of major events. In a word: heroes. Although such figures are inspiring, Joseph Badaracco argues that their larger-than-life accomplishments are not what makes the world work. What does, he says, is the sum of millions of small yet consequential decisions that individuals working far from the limelight make every day. Badaracco calls them "quiet leaders"--people who choose responsible, behind-the-scenes action over public heroism to resolve tough leadership challenges. Quiet leaders don't fit the stereotype of the bold and gutsy leader, and they don't want to. What they want is to do the "right thing"--for their organizations, their coworkers, and themselves--but inconspicuously and without casualties. Drawing from extensive research, Badaracco presents eight practical yet counter-intuitive guidelines for situations in which right and wrong seem like moving targets. Compelling stories illustrate how these "nonheroes" succeed by managing their political capital, buying themselves time, bending the rules, and more. From the executive suite to the office cubicle--Leading Quietly shows how patient, everyday efforts can add up to a better company and a better world.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When we think of great leaders, it's usually the charismatic, globally influential Churchill, Patton, Jack Welch who spring to mind. But as Harvard Business School professor Badaracco (Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right) correctly points out, everyday leadership is not so dramatic, and daily leadership decisions are rarely carried out at the top of an organization. Badaracco focuses here is on helping the middle- and senior-level managers who make the ordinary decisions that ultimately determine an organization's success. As he puts it: "What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, small, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world." Out of a four-year study of these real-life leaders, Badaracco describes eight strategies for making effective leadership decisions in murky situations where the "right" thing is far from obvious. The strategies range from the commonsensical (truly examine the question at hand; don't ignore corporate politics) to the counterintuitive (don't expect to be wholly altruistic and accept that some of your motives are self-interested; try not to make important decisions as quickly as possible). Badaracco presents each principle with a brief introduction, followed by a case study and summary of the lessons to be learned. The sum is a useful checklist middle-level managers can put to work immediately.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Leading Quietly is a fresh approach to making our way in the world. -- USA Today, June 24, 2002

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486634159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578514878
  • ASIN: 1578514878
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too Often Unsung Quiet Leadership April 1, 2002
In Leading Quietly, Joseph L. Badaracco observes that society tends to think about leadership primarily in terms of heroic figures. His readers have been taught from their childhood to show respect for the efforts and sacrifices of great men and women. Often, his readers are not properly informed about the fact that most sung heroes like Winston Churchill or Mother Teresa worked, quietly and patiently, for years or decades, before their key contribution to society was widely acknowledged.
To his credit, Badaracco celebrates modest, unassuming men and women with their mixed and complicated motives. Like most of his audience, those men and women will probably never be in the limelight but make the world a better place through countless, small, often unseen efforts. Badaracco convincingly demonstrates that it is given to almost all his audience to learn and practice the simple virtues of quiet leadership, e.g.: Restraint, modesty, and tenacity.
Contrary to some wisdom, quiet leaders
1) Buy time.
2) Drill down into the political and technical elements of the problems they face.
3) Invest their political capital wisely.
4) Nudge, test, and escalate gradually.
5) Find ways, when necessary, to bend the rules.
6) View compromise as a high form of leadership and creativity.
In his recently published Good To Great, Jim Collins interestingly comes to the conclusion that the CEOs of great companies turning around good companies successfully are usually humble, modest, and tenacious. Is quiet leadership from top to bottom within any organization the future?
In a second edition of Leading Quietly, Badaracco could perhaps use both success stories and failures to illustrate each guideline for practicing quiet leadership.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and clearly argued January 29, 2002
Professor Badaracco acknowledges here what conventional wisdom on business ethics might suggest before he presents a well-argued case for why the stock responses that call for black and white behavior are not always the most effective options for individual choices. Badaracco's take that the quiet leader doesn't knee-jerkingly draw a line in the sand and say, "this is right; this is wrong; I will not cross this line" might strike some readers as coping out or compromising at the expense of doing the absolute right thing. But careful readers will discover that Badaracco's notion isn't to cave when right action is called for, but rather to look more broadly at the issues and make more informed decisions. Main strengths: 1) provocative, well-articulated argument; 2) clarity of writing; and 3) clear case studies to support argument of the book.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thankyou To Amazon.com December 17, 2002
"Leading Quietly" is the result of a professional five year study on leadership by Joseph Badaracco. It is NOT your run-of-the-mill "how-to" book on the subject, designed primarily to make money. That sets it apart from all the other books out there. As a Harvard professor, the author uses the same type of case study methodology as is used in the MBA and Law School programs. I found that "Leading Quietly", standing alone, was enjoyable and useful enough to recommend to everyone interested in character and leadership. But, following suggestions I read on Amazon.com, I went on to read Norman Thomas Remick's "West Point: Character Leadership Education....Thomas Jefferson", and found the combination of the two books to be a dynamite education on character and leadership. I can only say thankyou to Amazon.com for leading this horse to water. I strongly recommend that you do the same ----- if you really want to be a good leader.
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55 of 67 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Scary Book September 5, 2002
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed in this effort from a Harvard Business School professor. Not only did I think that this book would deal with the ethics of leadership, I also was expecting to read about success stories of leaders. Although the stories presented do show some of the elements that leaders can use to accomplish things quietly, the reader is left hanging as to what long term impact is felt from the decisions made. For example, the first story used is of a new hospital administrator who faces a difficult situation and resolves it using the techniques of a quiet leader,ultimately leading the second in command to tender his resignation. The disappointment is that we never find out if the administrator has lost the ability to lead those left behind or what other long term impacts there are to this type of leadership.
All of the other vignettes follow the same pattern, with no long term follow up on the effectiveness of these leaders, and how they dealt with other leadership challenges that arise in the future. This is also shown in the story of a new Army captain who reports a lapse on the part of inspectors, which is greeted by superiors with a "That is good to know", and then we never find out what changes are made to improve the situation, or if the captain is labeled by superiors as someone not to trust, or, hopefully, as someone with strong character.
However, what scared me most about this book was the chapter entitled "Buy a Little Time". In this chapter the author reflects that "But if he must choose between creative accounting and firing people unfairly, Williams may need to depart from highest standards of accounting precision and play some of the games that managers often play." (p.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesing read.
It's a quick read--like a long magazine article. But, it does touch on a side of leadership that is not always espoused. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Veronica
4.0 out of 5 stars Leading Inconspicuously
The below Three, Four and Five Star reviews provided by these Amazon Reviewers are all worth noting and give a realistic representation of this well written book. Read more
Published 12 days ago by J. Ilog
5.0 out of 5 stars Offers a different spin
Badaracco offers a different spin on ethics but submitting that quiet leaders aren't ambitious for their own advancement but are behind the scenes and desire to make positive... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Shannon Arne
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, but not what I was looking for.
I was looking for a book on introverted leaders, and this does give some good examples of that, but it doesn't really give any good advice on how introverts can lead in their own... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Woody Muire
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I appreciated the messages of this book. If you are expecting "7 secrets to always winning" look elsewhere. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kirk Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars you don't have to be a hero and blow up everything to do the right...
In addition to tips on how to do the right thing, its tips are also useful for saying across the companies politics trying to to what you think is better.
Published 3 months ago by Jonny
4.0 out of 5 stars Great lessons of non glamorous leadership
The book offered precise and good examples that can be applied in daily leadership journey. I will certainly recommend to other people ..
Published 7 months ago by Madinane
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh, Realistic Take on Leadership
"Leading Quietly" provides a realistic and human view of what it takes to be a good leader. You don't have to be heroic and self-sacrificing to be an effective leader who... Read more
Published 9 months ago by D. Lynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Leading Quietly
Most business schools and undergraduate education, if they even offer a course on leadership, approach the topic of leadership from a heroic perspective. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Brady James
4.0 out of 5 stars Realistic View of Business Situations
This book delves into the very human attribute of self-preservation in tough situations. An unflinching look at how some decisions require "coloring outside the lines."
Published 11 months ago by RM Ling
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