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The Taboos of Leadership: The 10 Secrets No One Will Tell You About Leaders and What They Really Think Hardcover – April 20, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787995827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787995829
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this emperor-has-no-clothes exposé, Smith attempts to get into the heads of the powerful, reveal what goes on there and develop strategies for the inferiors who must cope with them. The managing director of the Leadership Research Institute, Smith dissects various leadership qualities-looking at heads of business, the military and politics, among others-as well as the way they're perceived by followers, employees and the general public. The innate hypocrisy of the human drive to power-"leadership is rooted in the urges of blatant self-interest"-creates a tension between leaders' public and private feelings; Smith posits that, though leaders' responsibility is to the team, they must protect their own power with "tough, hard, ruthless, and overtly political acts." This results, all too often, in "taboos" such as double standards, isolation and favoritism, all of which underlings find difficult, if not impossible, to address openly. The topics considered are many, including the difference charisma makes, the effect of gender, the successor-grooming game and the pursuit of a balanced lifestyle; the message, ultimately, is to speak up and look out.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Consultant Smith sets out to provide a description of what it takes to be a leader by focusing on taboos or certain prohibitions in corporate life that render them untouchable. In providing a frame of reference for understanding and recognizing these taboos, he says, "If taboos are holding our organizations and leaders down, they should be pruned back or weeded out, allowing our organizations and leaders to grow." He identifies 10 secrets or taboos of leadership including the importance of charisma; self-interest is blatant in leaders but dangerous for followers; while many women don't really want leadership and the sacrifice it requires, when they do they are better leaders than men; few understand that grooming a successor "hurts like hell"; few leaders have balance in their life since their work is their life, and hence those seeking balance may limit their opportunities for leadership. This thought-provoking book may promote conversation among leaders, but it is unknown how much discussion will include followers. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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If you want to win the game, you also need execution, time, energy, and perseverance.
Robert J. Fazio
As an organizational psychologist who regularly works with senior executives, I appreciate Dr. Smith's insights into the unspoken thought processes of senior leaders.
Sacha E. Lindekens
A "must read" for practitioners of leadership coaching; as well as those who aspire to become tomorrow's "Captains of Industry."
Irenemcphailmay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
We all know that there are subjects you simply can't talk about in public, within your family, or with certain friends. They are topics that are so volatile that simply bringing them up ignites a fire that is completely destructive before anything worthwhile can be gained. This interesting little book by Anthony F. Smith addresses 10 taboos in the world of business that leaders still have to address. Smith talks about the each taboo, what the issues are, and how you might be able deal with them in a constructive way.

He divides the book into four parts: Introducing the Taboos, Taboos of Persuasion, Taboos of Position, and Taboos of the Person.

The ten taboos included are:

1) What leadership REALLY takes versus the pieties we say about leadership.
2) The role of Charisma in leadership (good looks do play a role).
3) Real leaders do play politics, actually.
4) Women who care to be leaders actually do a better job than men.
5) The real cost of double standards and why we have them anyway.
6) Why leaders play favorites with friends and family and the associated costs.
7) Why leaders should groom successors and why they don't.
8) What work-life balance means to a driven leader.
9) The role of self-interest in success.
10) Why top leadership is a lonely job and why the top leaders like it.

Smith concludes with a discussion of dealing with the taboos we are now talking about.

A handy book for managers who are on their way up or already there.

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Before I say what I like about this book, I want to point out three flaws. The first is the title/contents mismatch. The other two flaws are errors of fact.

Flaws

The title of this book doesn't match its contents. The book is actually about the taboos of CEOs, not about the taboos of leadership. Not all leaders are CEOs and not all CEOs are leaders. One taboo the author didn't mention was the dearth of real leadership among the senior executive ranks.

Two patently false claims made in this book are the product of the propaganda put out in an effort to put a positive spin on what is, when you look at it objectively, theft.

The author claims that "leaders" (CEOs) are entitled to the pay they receive. But the outlandish compensation packages given to American CEOs have no correlation to performance. It should also matter that CEOs in other countries do not haul in the booty in any way close to this. Rather than multimillion dollar salaries and tons of perks, the CEOs in other countries typically make a wage that is not a huge jump from the Vice President level.

The superstar salaries are not justified, despite the author's claims, and are a fairly recent problem. CEOs get these salaries because of incestuous boards, not because it's "hard to attract talent." What kind of talent does it take to order layoffs or do boneheaded things that drop the company's stock price by 95% in one year? People who perform such "services" get paid millions for their "talent." Think of Tom Rogers (destroyed Primedia) or Chainsaw Al (eviscerated Sunbeam), just for starters.

The method of determining CEO compensation is not what the author posits.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Howard J. Morgan on May 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I think that the most valuable part of this book is that it provokes thought and conversation. It deals with subjects that could be described in a superficial political way but instead, challenges our conventional thinking and views about both senior leadership and ourselves.

If leadership is to continue to evolve and grasp opportunities, this book is a great start to that thought process. We are responsible but books such as Mr. Smith's force us to think about how we get there.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Fazio on May 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book has already made an impact in my professional relationships. Dr. Smith offers readers insight and information that only the best of the best would know. I was impressed with what he has learned through the relationships he has had with some of the most influential leaders in a variety of industries.

This book will help shorten my learning curve as I meet the challenge of growing a grass roots nonprofit organization. His teachings made me realize that having a vision is only part of the game. If you want to win the game, you also need execution, time, energy, and perseverance.

Because the nonprofit organization I am growing was inspired by a tragic event, our leadership has used charisma to inspire others. In the past, I have made the mistake of stifling charisma as a leadership style due to the recent criticisms in leadership books. Dr. Smith provides a brilliant rationale for why in certain situations charisma is not only "ok," it is essential for impact.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Sedgwick on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An excellent revealing, honest, and surprising glimpse into the realities of the business world at the top executive corporate level.

A definite facinating, must read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg L. Thomas on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Taboos of Leadership may startle you at first glance because of its blunt content! It is unlike most modern books on leadership because it opens issues and discussions rarely addressed. Instead of examining the air-brushed and sanitized picture of leadership most often presented today, this book looks at the "good, bad and the ugly" of modern leaders including egos, politics, perks, double standards, selfishness and succession. As Smith mentions in the first chapter, "No matter how effectively a leader performs, any gap between idealized expectation and the gritty reality undermines credibility." Regarding the existence of taboos he continues, "If we do not acknowledge their existence and understand their reality, we are allowing ourselves to be held prisoner to misconceptions, not unlike those who believed the world was flat or that life could never be created in a test tube."

The Taboos of Leadership is a result of a dramatic change in the author's own thinking over his career as a consultant. Early on... his approach as a consultant was to collect data, perform surveys and then tell the CEO what they needed to do differently. However, this provided limited results and "was not reflecting the organizational reality I was experiencing." After ten years he began to change his approach and became an executive advocate. He now believes that if certain taboos are revealed and navigated between leaders and followers, better solutions can be found to organizational problems. He also believes it is important to help employees see the problems they blame on their leaders, from the leaders point of view.

The heart and core of The Taboos of Leadership is the examination of 10 taboos that exist in leaders and their organizations.
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