- Paperback: 220 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Revised ed. edition (March 12, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0029113121
- ISBN-13: 978-0029113127
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Leadership Paperback – March 12, 1993
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From School Library Journal
YA-- Gardner asserts that the most critical problem challenging the U. S. today is its lack of leadership. He proposes and supports with excellent illustrations his theories on leadership that go beyond charisma to heightened motivation, trust, confidence, and shared values on the part of those in charge and their followers. Giving historically significant examples of leaders, Gardner shows the tremendous amount of energy, talent, and dormant enthusiasm that can be mobilized by effective leaders in all levels of society. Given the current apathetic situation he decries, this easily read, inspiring text should be required reading for all high-school social studies classes. Gardner challenges leaders in all walks of life to take their positions in the bastions of the American democracy now or face the dismal consequences later.
- Barbara Batty, Port Arthur I.S.D., TX
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Joseph Jaworski President, American Leadership Forum John Gardner in his extraordinary book demystifies a subject of awesome proportions and brings it into very short focus for all of us. Clear, concise, this book is comprehensive and accessible, and without doubt, will be seen as one of the seminal works on leadership. For anyone who is a real student of leadership, this book is an absolute must.
Michael H. Walsh Chairman and CEO, Union Pacific Railroad Company There may be someone in the country who knows more about leadership than John Gardner -- but if so, I don't know who it is. "On Leadership" belongs on the desk of every business, government, and educational executive in the country.
Howard T Prince, II Ph.D., Colonel, U.S. Army "On Leadership" is a particularly important book for America today. John Gardner has faced current realities with courage and clarity and shows that the tasks of renewing our social organizations and releasing the human possibilities that lie undiscovered or have been suppressed by modem institutions are the critical leadership challenges facing us today.
Fred M. Hechinger President, The New York Times Company Foundation, Inc. At a time of Teflon politicians and professional image makers, John Gardner proposes a powerful antidote to the nation's leadership crisis. He demystifies leadership and links it inseparably to accountability. "On Leadership" offers an essential lesson in history and a demanding but optimistic guide to the future.
Walter E Ulmer, Jr. President, Center for Creative Leadership John Gardner gives us more than a wonderful tour of leadership concepts and practices. "On Leadership" is a rich and lively commentary on our culture. This is a masterpiece that will appeal to the widest range of audiences. The book will stimulate further exploration into this crucial human activity. Essential for every bookshelf, "On Leadership" should be required reading now -- and be reread about once a year!
Joseph Slater President Emeritus, The Aspen Institute "On Leadership" is a combination of wisdom, wit and perception. John Gardner, the supreme generalist, achieves a marvelous synthesis of his own leadership experience and observations over a lifetime.
Howard P. Allen Chairman and CEO, Southern California Edison Company In "On Leadership, " John Gardner has shown uncommon insight in his analysis of this complex and difficult topic. His perceptive guidance to leaders and followers alike is a contribution to leadership development and a service to our nation.
Top Customer Reviews
Gardner begins by stressing the lack of leadership in the U.S. He believes this is a critical problem and opines that new leaders are desperately needed to tackle the obvious monumental societal problems that exist in our culture. Much of the book has a common thread on the critical need for leadership development. The author frequently uses historical examples to highlight his theories on leadership. On Leadership begins by stressing that understanding real leadership is an important first step. Leaders must be accountable, and must be held accountable for their actions and the direction they are taking us. He also does not shy away from a bold discussion on the importance of shared values, ethics, integrity and responsibility. A major emphasis of this work is that individuals at all segments of society must be prepared to demonstrate initiative and responsible leadership. He refers to this as dispersed leadership. Gardner stresses that, "Vitality at middle and lower levels of leadership can produce greater vitality in the higher levels of leadership".
The seventeen chapters of the book culminate with a "call to action" and a foretaste of what future possibilities might lie ahead if we heed the call. In the last chapter entitled The Release of Human Possibilities, Gardner envisions that "what leaders see on the surface can be discouraging - people, even very able people, caught in the routines of life, thinking short-term, plowing narrow self-beneficial furrows through life. What leaders have to remember is that somewhere under that somnolent surface is the creature that builds civilizations, the dreamer of dreams, the risk taker. And, remembering that, the leader must reach down to the springs that never dry up, the ever-fresh springs of the human spirit."
You may or may not agree with all the ideas and concepts that On Leadership presents. However, you will certainly be given a tremendous amount of material for personal reflection and self-discovery. This is a good book and the only weakness may exist in a few sections that are difficult to read due to an academic orientation and background.
His book accomplished his purpose by highlighting, in vignettes, what by the 1990s had become the standard topics of leadership--traits, contexts, leader-follower dynamics, and so forth. In this sense, Gardner's book, with a flavor made particular by his extensive political examples, is in the genre of classic leadership textbooks, and his answer to the question posed in his first sentence was the book-length elaboration of the final sentence of his introduction: "We can do better. Much, much better" (p. xix).
His contributions to the field of leadership studies include his discussion of "dispersed leadership," which is woven through the text, his thoughts about renewal, and his discussion of how leadership and followership can release human potential. His extended definition of leadership, found on the first page of the first chapter, stated "Leadership is the process of persuasion or example by which a leader (or leadership team) induces a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers" (p. 1).
His book is a goldmine of aphoristic insights into leadership:
* The concept of accountability is as important as the concept of leadership. (p. xviii)
* The first step is not action; the first step is understanding. (p. xviii)
* Many people with power are without leadership gifts. (p. 2)
* Many writers on leadership take considerable pains to distinguish between leaders and managers. In the process leaders generally end up looking like a cross between Napoleon and the Pied Piper, and managers like unimaginative clods. This troubles me. (p.3)
* Values always decay over time. Societies that keep their values alive do so not by escaping the process of decay but by powerful processes of regeneration [italics original]. (p. 13)
* Indeed, one could argue that willingness to engage in battle when necessary is the sine qua non of leadership. (p. 16)
* Leaders are invariably symbols. (p. 18)
* Achieving a goal may simply make the next goal more urgent: inside every solution are the seeds of new problems. And as Donald Michael has pointed out, most of the time most things are out of hand. No leader enjoys that reality, but every leader knows it. (p. 22)
* Executives are given subordinates; they have to earn followers [italics original]. (p. 24)
* Woodrow Wilson said, "The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people." (p. 29)
* One ambitious young lawyer asked one went about winning trust, and the senior partner said dryly, "Try being trustworthy." (p. 33)
* Hobbes said that the reputation of power is power [italics original]. (p. 34)
* As Peter Drucker put it, Vail saw that the only way to keep Bell a private company was "to stand for the public interest more forcefully than any public agency could." (p. 45)
* He said, "He's a superb crisis manager, which is fortunate because his lack of judgment leads to a lot of crises." (p. 49)
* Acclaim and derision are the rewards of leadership. (p. 53)
* So the public (even the reasonably well-informed public) is deprived of the opportunity so cherished in a free society to exercise its native judgment in choosing the candidate who meets its needs. It knows its needs. But it does not know the candidates--only skillfully manufactured facsimiles thereof. (p. 54)
* To say a leader is preoccupied with power is like saying that a tennis player is preoccupied with making shots an opponent cannot return. Of course leaders are preoccupied with power! The significant questions are: What means do they use to gain it? How do they exercise it? To what ends do they exercise it? (p. 57)
* Our federal government is the biggest carrot-and-stick warehouse in the world. No wonder the power junkies gather. (p. 61)
* In our society public opinion is a notable source of power. (p. 61)
* A familiar failing of visionaries and of people who live in the realm of ideas and issues is that they are not inclined to soil their hands with the nuts and bolts of organizational functioning. (p. 65)
* Even veteran observers are bemused by the overreaching of some who exercise power. It is a source of constant wonder that such ancient and dreary vice can spring up so freshly. (p. 66)
* And who remembers the reigning princes? What heritage was left by those who held great worldly power when Buddha was teaching, or when Isaiah was prophesying or when Jesus spoke by the lakeside? (p. 76)
* Cyert and March point out that an organization is generally a coalition of individuals and groups with diverse goals, engaged in continuous bargaining for power. (p. 91)
* Mark Twain said, "There isn't a parallel of latitude that but thinks it would have been the equator if it had had its rights" . . . . People who think of themselves as victims are in no mood to collaborate with others to shape a constructive future. (p. 96)
* Pluralism that reflects no commitments whatever to the common good is pluralism gone berserk. (p. 97)
* Leaders unwilling to seek mutually workable arrangements with systems external to their own are not serving the long-term interests of their constituents. [italics original] (p. 99)
* Hitler said, "The art of leadership consists of consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary." (p. 104)
* Transactional leadership accepts and works within the structure as it is. Transformational leadership renews. (p. 122)
* Leaders must understand the interweaving of continuity and change. [italics original] (p. 124)
* The person who works for social change must not be assumed to be a believer in Utopia and human perfectibility. Change will occur. We must cope. Leaders should understand the point made by Francis Bacon 350 years ago: "He who will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator." (p. 125)
* A feature of the trance of nonrenewal is that individuals can look straight ata flaw in the system and not see it as a flaw. (p. 126)
* Nothing is more vital to the renewal of an organization than the arrangements by which able people are nurtured and moved into positions where they can make their greatest contributions. (p. 127)
* H.G. Wells said, "Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit." (p. 132)
* There is no doubt that a certain number of top executives have, in the secrecy of their minds, closed the books on one or another portion of their responsibilities. (p. 133)
* Pity the leader who is caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers. (p. 135)
* The final issue is the most serious. Power lodges somewhere. When "the people" take power away from an individual or group they dislike, they may inadvertently empower those they like even less. In a leaderless system, where will power lodge? (p. 142)
* There is a French saying, "Be sure you want the consequences of what you want." (p. 142)
* Most of the endlessly debated questions about leadership are ancient, but there is one that has a distinctly modern ring: How can we define the role of leaders in the way that most effectively releases the creative energies of followers in the pursuit of shared purposes [italics original]. (p. 143)
* The first duties of citizens are not of a sophisticated political nature. Those duties are to look after one another in the family circle, get themselves educated and equipped to support themselves, obey the law, pay their taxes, and rear their children as responsible members of the community. These are authentic forms of participation, though they are rarely mentioned in discussions of the subject. (p. 145)
* The generalization may be that explosive crises produce great leaders, creeping crises do not. (p. 158)
* They learn that it is how they perform as individuals that counts, not how they relate to others. So it is not surprising that many young executives--even middle-aged executives--are still pirouetting for some scorekeeper, real or imagined, with little thought of their possible constituency. Their gaze is directed upward, at the executive staff meetings they want to worm their way into, at the executive vice-presidents they want to impress. They are not even paying attention to the people at their own level or below, whom they might hope to lead. (p. 167)
* Experience, thought to be the best teacher, is sometimes a confusing teacher. Robert Benchley said that having a dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. (p. 168)
* Mentors are "growers," good farmers rather than inventors or mechanics. (p. 169)
* No leadership course can affect young men and women so powerfully as a well-designed sequence of reassignments. (p. 175)
* Are these just questions to be tossed into the box that lies beyond the in-box and the out-box? (Dean Acheson said there should be a third box, labeled Too Hard.) (p. 182) [note: this is the segue quotation to Heifetz and Peck]
* As a consequence, beneath the surface of most constituencies are dormant volcanoes of emotion and motivation. Oddly, when leaders tap those geothermal sources and evoke intense responses, we attribute the intensity not to the subterranean fires but to charisma in the leader. (p. 186)
* Your identity is what you have committed yourself to--whether the commitment is to your religion, to an ethical order, to your life work, to loved ones, to the common good, or to coming generations. (p. 189)
* We are not only problem solvers but problem seekers. If a suitable problem is not at hand, we invent one. Most games are invented problems. We are designed for the climb, not for taking our ease, either in the valley or at the summit. (p. 195)
* Harlan Cleveland points out that the leader has little choice but to be optimistic. The analyst, the critic, the journalist can afford not to be. But taking a positive view is not something that effective leaders have to work at: It is in their temperament, and no doubt had much to do with their attainment of a leadership role. It may have been a leader who said, "I'd be a pessimist but it would never work." (p. 196)