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On Leadership Paperback – March 12, 1993
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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.
From the Back Cover
Leaders today are familiar with the demand that they come forward with a new vision. But it is not a matter of fabricating a new vision out of whole cloth. A vision relevant for us today will build on values deeply embedded in human history and in our own tradition. It is not as though we come to the task unready. Men and women from the beginning of history have groped and struggled for various pieces of the answer. The materials out of which we build the vision will be the moral strivings of the species, today and in the distant past.
Most of the ingredients of a vision for this country have been with us for a long time. As the poet wrote, "The light we sought is shining still." That we have failed and fumbled in some of our attempts to achieve our ideals is obvious. But the great ideas still beckon freedom, equality, justice, the release of human possibilities. The vision is to live up to the best in our past and to reach the goals we have yet to achieve with respect to our domestic problems and our responsibilities worldwide.
From the Preface of "On Leadership"
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Gardner does explain the attributes of a leader, basic components of leadership and its placement & utilization in large-scale organizations. The author enlivens this academic material by breathing politically historical examples to illustrate its application. The discussion comes full circle when Gardner segues into leadership development, motivation, and the release of human potential.
Personally, I relished absorbing and will emphasize the value of Chapter 13, 'Sharing Leadership Tasks'. Up until this point, most of the material colorfully delivered has been the foundation of leadership in its academic sense and you can find most of these precepts in any leadership text. But in Chapter 13, Gardner ties the principles together and hold all parties responsible. Leaders must be accountable for their actions & outcomes and conversely, the subordinates/constituents are responsible for holding their leader accountable. Gardner does not gloss over the role and responsibility of the subordinate/constituent because they act as a check & balance component for their leader. Furthermore, Gardner challenges the leader to trust, empower and hold his or her subordinates/constituents accountable for their jurisdiction and involve their energy & ideas. Gardner left me with the impression that any person at any level accepting responsibility and sharing in leadership tasks can have a positive ripple effect on those with whom s/he come into contact.
Gardner sells well the 'power of one' in terms of taking responsibility, being an active participant, and growing to be a better human being. As a leader, we should teach responsibility through empowerment and encourage initiative by eliciting participation, embracing various perspectives, and learning from less-than-desirable results. Lastly, Gardner proposes leadership development may begin as early as birth as a result of proactive parenting or latently unlocked and unleashed through carefully crafted conduct, circumstantial crises or happenstance. Whenever the leader in one emerges, it is the necessary renewal in the leadership process.
I was very pleased with this read and recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the fundamentals of being a leader, the expectations of leadership, and measures you can take to become more leader-like in your daily living.
In my consulting practice working with heads of emerging enterprises, lack of leadership skills is the greatest obstacle to the success of their respective organizations. There are literally hundreds of books that come out annually on leadership and management, most of which are retreads of older material with a fancy new title.
The elements of strong leadership don't change with the season. Instead, they stand fixed over time.