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Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn from Experience to Become a Great Leader Hardcover – February 26, 2008
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"Thomas displays exceptional understanding of the complex forces at work in any leader's career. Crucibles of Leadership provides a crisp road map to leading more effectively." --Jeff Wilke, Senior Vice President, Amazon.com
"Robert Thomas has written the organizational playbook for transforming management into leadership.The critical elixir? Learning from those times when one's leadership was on the line." --Michael Useem, William and Jacalyn Egan Professor and Director, Center for Leadership and Change Management, The Wharton School
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Robert Thomas has addressed this key gap in the literature on leadership by shining a light into the black box of what he calls "crucible" experiences. After interviewing close to 200 highly effective leaders, Thomas found several key patterns to how they had learned to lead from challenging experiences that had made them stretch. The common denominator he found is that they all had a personal learning strategy that enabled them to systematically learn from challenging experiences. He then walks the reader through a reflective process the leads to the development of a personal learning strategy. Extremely useful and actionable.
Why are some people natural leaders, while others fail time and time again? It is a timeless question without a simple answer. Based on interviews with more than 40 top leaders, the authors conclude that one of the most reliable indicators "is an individual's ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances." The authors term these intense, often traumatic, always unplanned experiences that shape leaders as 'crucibles', "after the vessels medieval alchemists used in their attempts to turn base metals into gold." These leadership crucibles can take different shapes and forms. One of the most common types of crucibles involves the experience of prejudice. And some of the harshest crucible experiences illuminate a hidden and suppressed area of the soul (for instance, episodes of illness or violence). But, luckily, not all crucible experiences are traumatic. They can involve a positive, if deeply challenging, experience such as having a demanding boss or mentor. So, how do leaders cope and learn from these difficult situations? Bennis and Thomas believe that great leaders possess four essential skills: (1) The ability to engage others in shared meaning; (2) A distinctive and compelling voice; (3) A sense of integrity (including a strong set of values); and (4) "Adaptive capacity". They see this fourth skill as by far most critical skill.Read more ›
But the key finding of their book, Geeks and Geezers, turned out to be the importance of the defining moments that shape leaders. Thomas and Bennis called those moments "crucibles."
Crucibles are emotionally charged situations that produce great learning and growth in some leaders. This was something a lot of us knew intuitively, but no one had ever stated or supported with research.
Once upon a time we believed that you could learn leadership from books and classes. Then, slowly, it dawned on the leadership development community that you can learn about leadership from a book or in class, but you learn leadership on the job.
Some of us call that the Apprenticeship Model. And the "academy companies" like GE, Pepsico, and P & G have taken to it with gusto. They've made developmental assignments a core part of their leadership development programs.
Robert Thomas decided to dig deeper into the phenomenon of crucibles. This book shares the results of that research. There are four key findings.
Crucibles contain two vital lessons, not just one. The second lesson is how to learn.
Practice can trump talent.
Outstanding leaders devise a strategy for transforming crucibles into learning.
Organizations can grow leaders faster by helping them learn from experience.
The book is divided into three parts. The first, Experience Matters--But Then What? includes the first four chapters.Read more ›
They developed a theory that describes, they believe for the first time, how leaders come to be. "We believe that we have identified the process that allows an individual to undergo testing and to emerge, not just stronger, but better equipped with the tools he or she needs both to lead and to learn. It is a model that explains how individuals make meaning out of difficult events -- we call them [begin italics] crucibles [end italics] -- and how that process of 'meaning making' both galvanizes individuals and gives them their distinctive voice." They cite and then discuss a number of individuals who underwent that process and, as a result, became highly-effective leaders.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What I liked most were the early chapters that focused on how Crucibles shape leaders. In particular I found the discussion on how crucibles change people`s identities very true... Read morePublished on June 16, 2014 by Joseph Mutizwa
this book provides interesting insight into how leaders are formed and lessons to improve as a leader. I think that the stories told and the analysis of leaders is useful. Read morePublished on March 25, 2013 by Marc L
Most great leaders are great because they've been through the fire. That is, they've performed admirably, even gallantly, during a particularly difficult experience - a searing,... Read morePublished on January 9, 2009 by Rolf Dobelli
I've had my share of reading many different business leadership books. They roughly divide into two categories: 1) exposition of things/principles that you need to do and live in... Read morePublished on August 12, 2008 by Yoon Lee
CRUCIBLES OF LEADERSHIP: HOW TO LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE TO BECOME A GREAT LEADER provides keys to understanding leadership qualities and practices, through finding meaning in... Read morePublished on May 8, 2008 by Midwest Book Review