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The Executive and the Elephant: A Leader's Guide for Building Inner Excellence

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The Executive and the Elephant: A Leader's Guide for Building Inner Excellence [Hardcover]

Richard L. Daft
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 2, 2010

Lessons for leaders on resolving the ongoing struggle between instinct and the creative mind

Kings, heads of government, and corporate executives lead thousands of people and manage endless resources, but may not have mastery over themselves. Often leaders know that right action is important, but have little (if any) understanding of what prevents them from acting in accordance with their intentions. In this important book, leadership expert Richard Daft portrays this dilemma as a struggle between instinct (elephant) and intention (the executive) using the most current research on the intentional vs. the habitual mind to explain how this phenomenon occurs. * Based on current research and real-life examples * Offers leaders a method for directing themselves more productively * Written by an expert in leadership, organizational performance, and change management

Through real-life examples and recent studies in psychology, management and Eastern spirituality Daft provides guidance to all of us who struggle finding our own balance and cultivating the behavior of others.

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Editorial Reviews


"The book is terrific – it identifies an important issue for leaders, and tackles it in a very practical way, with plenty of techniques to choose from and many examples of them being used successfully. We all struggle with our inner elephant, and if you want to help get more control by your inner executive, this book would definitely help." (Globe and Mail, September 2010)

From the Inside Flap

"Kings, heads of government, and corporate executives have control over thousands of people and endless resources, but often do not have mastery over themselves. From a distance, larger-than-life leaders may look firmly in control of their businesses and their personal behavior. What about up close? Personal mastery is a difficult thing."—from Chapter One

Leaders know what they should be doing, so why aren't they doing it? When a leader knows the preferable behavior, why stick to an old pattern and fail to perform as desired? The answer is that each of us has two selves: one self is thoughtful, circumspect, and rational (the inner executive), and the other self is habit bound, impulsive, and emotion driven (the inner elephant). In this groundbreaking book, leadership expert Richard Daft reveals how leaders can recognize the two parts of themselves and learn to calm down, train, and guide their inner elephant toward the desired successful behavior.

Inner excellence means removing the personal flaw that is holding you back as a leader—such as procrastination, avoiding confrontation, a short attention span, perfectionism, tactless remarks, weak resolve, overreacting, criticizing, chasing the wrong gratifications, or not following though. This important book is filled with lessons for leaders on resolving the inner struggle between impulse and self-discipline, between blind reaction and big picture wisdom. Dozens of proven exercises will empower you to direct yourself and others more productively. With a little practice, your inner executive will learn to choose correctactions rather than let your unwantedbehaviors have their way.

Through compelling real-life coaching examples of dramatic personal changes, along with recent findings in psychology, management, neuroscience, and Eastern spirituality, Richard Daft provides guidance to all of us who want to follow our best intentions when leading ourselves and others.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (August 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470372265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470372265
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Executive and the Elephant May 14, 2011
This was a fascinating book that I won in a contest on Often, when Michael does a book review, he gives away copies of the book to the people who read his blog (another reason to read his blog). The book is a leadership book... but personal leadership, instead of managerial leadership. Leading yourself is the first step to leading others; if you're not good at leading yourself, you won't be good at leading others.

Basically, each person has two "natures" inside of them: one that wants to follow your own base instincts (the inner elephant), and one that makes rationale, reasoned decisions (the inner executive)-see Romans 7:14-25 for a biblical explanation. When we're born, all we do is follow the urges of the inner elephant. As we grow, we can learn to make decisions that will tame the inner elephant, and make us better people. We take hold of the things we should do, and we let our inner executive lead. But what are some concrete things we can do to tame the inner elephant, and let our inner executive take over? Here are a couple of things that I gleaned from this book:

We have different voices in our heads telling us different things. For many people, these voices are telling us negative, critical things: "I'm not good enough;" "I'm an inadequate leader;" "I spend too much time on the Internet;" "I'm not good enough for my job;" "I'm a bad father;" "I hate doing this." Richard Daft, the author of the book, suggests that one can replace those pre-suppositions about themselves by using something called autosuggestion. Basically, you intentionally replace those thoughts with what you want to be, and eventually what you say will be your first thought, instead of the negative thoughts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exec & elephant January 1, 2011
This is an extremely helpful guide for leaders at all levels in the organization as well as for people in all walks of life. i have re-read several sections because they resounded with me in my situations at work or in my personal life. Dick Daft gives excellent examples and easy exercises to change the way you tackle negative thoughts and procrastination. He gives you a recipe to succeed and achieve goals using visualization and positive self-talk. A great book to pick up over and over for different needs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the executive in all of us! July 30, 2010
By Beau
This book is a refreshing analysis for the "executive" in all of us. Dick Daft has thoroughly explored the etiologies of behavior that lead to self-imposed underperformance and then provided tangible advice to prod our "inner elephant" from impeding success and happiness. His anecdotes were very surreal for me. I highly recommend this book to the executive or non-executive who knows that they can perform better, who seeks tools for improved self-awareness, and is committed to a strategy for sustained personal excellence.
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There are a myriad of self help books. Yet, this one stands out, not only for the memorable analogy of the competing selves within us to an executive and an elephant, but also the plenty of well researched scientific knowledge and practical advice well organised and written. In short, recommended!

p.s. Below please find some of my favorite passages for your reference.
Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, is said to be utterly at ease despite any chaos around him or when facing difficult issues. His mind is present to listen, stay on point, build consensus, and be an ambassador. Executive presence is being comfortable in your own skin, right here and now. One study reported that the minds of champion athletes experienced one half the number of thoughts as normal athletes. This means that the champion's mind is less distracted; it has calm assurance and focus. Pg30
A leader who is stuck in small, inner-elephant thinking tends to see only his or her own spot of light - his or her own thoughts, ideas, beliefs, strategies, and solutions. What can be smaller than one mind? When I asked all the students to shine flashlights in all directions in the classroom, much of the "reality" of the classroom wall and ceiling surface area was exposed, representing many minds. Pg30
The inner executive is concerned with a reality bigger than its own thoughts and desires. The leader doesn't waste her energy fighting for her own view. The inner executive welcomes thoughts and competencies from any minds. Pg31
The brain is so good at the filling in trick that we are not aware it is happening. We tend to accept the brain's products uncritically and expect them to be true.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Give your inner elephant a peanut break! August 5, 2010
I had the pleasure of reading "The Executive and The Elephant" while studying for my MBA. I am no stranger to the business-self improvement section of the bookstore, and I would have to rank Daft's guide up there with the classic "7 Habits of Highly..." and "How to Win Friends and Influence People". The subject in the book is very understandable and relateable... we all have an inward-focused and spontaneous side (our elephant) and a outward-focused rational side (our executive). As we make decisions, we have to be careful to think with our executive side, even with our thoughts charging like a 10-ton elephant.

What I like best about this book is that it is not bogged down with long repetitive examples, as are many other books of this nature. I have put down many a book because the stories just repeat and dilute the content. Instead, Daft takes a more progressive approach and guides us through tasks that we can do in order to train our inner executive. We learn how to recognize and separate both sides, how to engage our executive, and how to silence the elephant when it pops up. Each chapter walks us through different steps we can take to accomplish this, giving detailed lists of the steps to take.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to improve their interpersonal skills and how they work in groups and organizations. If you are looking for a good self-improvement or how-to-succeed-in-business-type read, this book is perfect.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book about many real-life questions. It differs from ...
Interesting book about many real-life questions. It differs from other motivators book, because it's more about philosophy and psychology than just words.
Published 2 months ago by Sergey Kiselev
5.0 out of 5 stars great leadership insights
I really enjoyed the practicality of this book. I was able to implement many of the exercises as I progressed through the book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Leon Beresford
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Excels
It is interesting that most of teachings in the above work are well-known, but the author examines them quite clearly with full of convincing examples. Read more
Published on March 3, 2013 by Alexandre Winkler
5.0 out of 5 stars Es sensacional
Es probablemente el mejor libro de no ficción que ha pasado por mi vista en los últimos 20 años. Read more
Published on October 1, 2011 by Gmo Buelna
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is for everyone!
This book is for everyone, not just managers or so-called leaders. Anyone wanting to advance their attitute, their higher self, and their ability to do things that count will gain... Read more
Published on November 17, 2010 by J, Retired Scientist
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voyage of Self-Discovery
I have just completed my first reading of Richard L. Daft's book, The Executive and the Elephant: A Leader's Guide for Building Inner Excellence. Read more
Published on October 31, 2010 by Judith Robl
1.0 out of 5 stars Caution: May Mislead or Delude
The Executive and The Elephant is a book written to leaders aiming to not only help them identify problems they personally have in leadership but to teach how to resolve those... Read more
Published on October 15, 2010 by Lindy Abbott
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
Understanding and mastering the concepts in this book can help you become a better leader, a better employee, a better friend but doesnt do much for your golf game. Read more
Published on September 8, 2010 by EBH
5.0 out of 5 stars Eliminate procrastination. Lose weight. Become an effective leader.
With the help of this book you can achieve all of the above and more.

Simply put, the Executive and the Elephant is a "must read" for those seeking to become more... Read more
Published on August 30, 2010 by Peter Hamilton
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any manager
I was skeptical about reading a book which seems less technical than my usual reading list, however after reading the cover synopsis and just flipping through the book I realized... Read more
Published on August 20, 2010 by Anca
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More About the Author

Richard L. Daft, Ph.D., is the Brownlee O. Currey, Jr., Professor of Management in the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University where he specializes in the study of leadership and organization theory. Dr. Daft is a Fellow of the Academy of Management and has served on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, and Journal of Management Education. He was the Associate Editor-in-Chief of Organization Science and associate editor of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Dr. Daft has authored or co-authored 13 books, including ORGANIZATION THEORY AND DESIGN and MANAGEMENT. He has also authored dozens of scholarly articles, papers, and chapters and has published in the Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, Accounting Organizations and Society, Management Science, MIS Quarterly, and Organizational Behavior Teaching Review. Dr. Daft has received several government research grants in organization design, organizational innovation and change, strategy implementation, and organizational information processing.

An active teacher and respected consultant, Dr. Daft has served as associate dean and helped manage a start-up enterprise. He has been involved in management development and consulting for numerous organizations, including the American Banking Association, AutoZone, Nortel, Bridgestone, TVA, Pratt & Whitney, Allstate Insurance, State Farm Insurance, the United States Air Force, the U.S. Army, J. C. Bradford & Co., Central Parking System, USAA, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and many others.

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The Executive and the Elephant: A Leader's Guide for Building Inner Excellence
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