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The Powers to Lead Hardcover – March 3, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195335620 ISBN-10: 0195335627 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195335627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195335620
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leadership gurus since Machiavelli have argued over whether a leader should be loved or feared. In this evenhanded primer, Nye, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and soft power theorist, takes a resolute stand in between the two sides. Modern leadership, he contends, requires smart power, a judicious situational balance of hard power (getting people to do what you want, with carrots, sticks and bullying) and soft power (getting people to want what you want, with inspiration, charisma and propaganda). Nye embeds his argument in a lucid, if somewhat dry, survey of leadership studies, touching on everything from bonobo behavior to Freudian psychology, and illustrates it with references to noted leaders like former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Lincoln, Hitler and Subcomandante Marcos. (George Bush's presidency provides a recurring object lesson in bad leadership.) The author takes a skeptical, down-to-earth view of leadership fads and hype. But he can't quite break free of mystical notions like vision or vague buzz concepts like contextual intelligence (a head-scratcher that boils down to judgment and wisdom); his smart power formula is therefore more truism than concrete guide to action. Nye's is a useful introduction to the theory, but not the practice, of leadership. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nye, a distinguished academic, explores leadership as it relates to hard power (coercion) and soft power (influence and persuasion), and he calls the mixture of these powers smart power. He urges soft power whenever possible and defines power as the ability to obtain outcomes through others, noting the difference between wanting to dominate followers and sharing influence with them. Some leaders succeed in one context but fail in another, and Nye discusses contextual intelligence, which is an intuitive diagnostic skill that helps a leader to align tactics with objectives to create smart strategies in varying situations. It includes the ability to identify trends in complex circumstances and being adaptable while trying to shape events. The author quotes an ancient source, Lao Tzu: A leader is best when people barely know he exists; not so good when people obey and acclaim him; worst when they despise him. This excellent book offers important insight into leadership with valuable analysis and anecdotes for leaders and aspiring leaders. --Mary Whaley

Customer Reviews

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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anything by Joe Nye stops my work and receives my undivided attention. This is an absolute gem of a book, a mix of world-class scholarship and world-class pragmatism. It goes to the top of my leadership list on Amazon.

The book opens with the observation that two thirds of US citizens believe their is a leadership crisis. The intellectual center of the book is its focus on "smart power" defined as a balanced mix of soft and hard power that is firmly grounded in "Contextual IQ," a term credited to Mayo and Nohria of Harvard.

The author defines leaders as those who help a group create and achieve goals. He states that leadership is an art, not a science. I especially liked the early phases, "good contextual intelligence broadens the bandwidth of leaders." He likens the relation of leaders and the led to surfers and the wave--can ride it but cannot move it this way and that.

Soft power, his signal contribution to the global dialog on international relations, is concisely defined as att5ractive power, yielding the power to ask instead of compell. He cites McGregor Burns in communicating that bullys who humiliate and intimidate are counter-productive, that "power-wielders are not leaders."

There is a fine review of leadership styles, attributes, and a reference to female leadership rising (I have long said that women make better intelligence analysts because they have smaller egos and a great deal more emphathy and intuition). He provides a matrix for evaluationg inter effectivenesss and ethics in relation to goals, means, and consequences.

I was struck the emphasis on emotional intelligence and the needed ability to rapidly evaluate loyalty networks that might not be immediately obvious.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pat B on April 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Leadership through persuasion and influence is the path favoured by leaders who use soft power to manage. A long-standing advocate of soft power, Joseph Nye, points out, in The Powers To Lead, that soft power is just one way to manage. The book recommends the use of smart power.
Success is obtained with smart power by combining hard and soft power skills in varying proportions, depending on the situation. Leadership with soft power transforms group members through the use of attraction, inspiration, persuasion, and charisma.
Hard power was used more by managers in prior eras of the industrial age. These leaders wanted to dominate their followers. They got what they wanted through coercion, bullying, and appealing to their opponents' tangible interests with rewards that had conditions attached.
Leaders who are better at using smart power have contextual intelligence. They know when to use soft or hard power to inspire their followers since they are aware of the distribution of power in their organization, its cultural values, and changes in their followers needs. Hard power is more appropriate when there is a need to appeal to tangible interests; whereas, soft power is effective when a leader can appeal to higher order values and noble purposes.
For example, when bargaining over wages, soft power is a good route to follow in a political nonprofit group where people work due to their own personal values. On the other hand, hard power bargaining, where tangible rewards are doled out, is likely necessary in a corporate for-profit setting where workers perceive that the owner is rich.
There are many examples in The Powers To Lead that are based on the author's experiences and observations in the public sector and international politics.
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Format: Hardcover
The last time I checked, Amazon offers more than 56,000 books on subject of leadership in business. So, what does Joseph Nye offer in this book that makes a significant, indeed unique contribution to our understanding of why some leaders are so successful and many others aren't? Responding to that is the focus of the remarks that follow in this review.

In Nye's opinion, insufficient attention has been paid to "the questions of power and leadership in a context broader than that of modern organizations." He goes on to assert that effective leadership requires "a mixture [and balance] of soft and hard power skills that I call [begin italics] smart power [end italics]. The proportions differ with contexts." To Nye, a leader can be - but need not be only a single -- individual that "helps a group create and achieve shared goals." Moreover, a leader is not only "who you are but what you do" and what a leader does frequently is determined by the given circumstances. If "context is more important than traits," the most effective leaders are those who help to achieve goals in (to borrow a phrase from Robert Bolt) "all seasons." Nye therefore views leadership as a process with three key components: leaders, followers, and context.

With regard to "soft" and "hard" power skills, they can be learned and they can be mastered. They enable a leader to respond most effectively to a given situation. "Soft power is not merely the same as influence, though it is one source of influence. After all, influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments. Nor is soft power just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it. It is also the ability to entice and attract. Attraction often leads to acquiescence.
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