- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (February 11, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1578514878
- ISBN-13: 978-1578514878
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Leading Quietly 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
When we think of great leaders, it's usually the charismatic, globally influential Churchill, Patton, Jack Welch who spring to mind. But as Harvard Business School professor Badaracco (Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right) correctly points out, everyday leadership is not so dramatic, and daily leadership decisions are rarely carried out at the top of an organization. Badaracco focuses here is on helping the middle- and senior-level managers who make the ordinary decisions that ultimately determine an organization's success. As he puts it: "What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, small, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world." Out of a four-year study of these real-life leaders, Badaracco describes eight strategies for making effective leadership decisions in murky situations where the "right" thing is far from obvious. The strategies range from the commonsensical (truly examine the question at hand; don't ignore corporate politics) to the counterintuitive (don't expect to be wholly altruistic and accept that some of your motives are self-interested; try not to make important decisions as quickly as possible). Badaracco presents each principle with a brief introduction, followed by a case study and summary of the lessons to be learned. The sum is a useful checklist middle-level managers can put to work immediately.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Leading Quietly is a fresh approach to making our way in the world. -- USA Today, June 24, 2002
Top customer reviews
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Using case studies and clear prose, the author describes the techniques of quiet leadership, advising us to focus on small things that need to be handled every day. Quiet leaders accept that they will be surprised and will need to make decisions without knowing all of the facts. They are able to trust others, but verify information when possible. Quiet leaders are realists, accepting mixed motives in themselves and others. This allows them to find win-win solutions between individuals and organizations with different needs and goals.
Quiet leaders don't rush--or allow themselves to be rushed--into hasty decisions. They try to buy time to dig into the political and technical details and find a better solution. They build up political capital with others over time and "withdraw" this capital to help solve problems--or get extra time to solve them. Quiet leaders carefully consider drawing on this resource before taking on a problem. They may walk away from a problem they do not have the resources to address. They may bend the rules a bit to solve a problem, being careful to adhere to the principles they are based upon. A compromise is preferable to a conflict. If conflict seems necessary, quiet leaders move toward it carefully, escalating gradually, continually testing and trying for a low-key resolution.
In the closing chapter, Badaracco describes the case study methods used to gather data on quiet leaders and their egotistic counterparts. It is a good implementation of the "critical incident technique" described in Applied Measurement Methods in Industrial Psychology. He also acknowledges that: "Each of the tools presented in this book can be misused. Seeing the world as a complicated and uncertain place can serve as an excuse for not thinking about serious problems. Bending the rules can be an excuse for avoiding plain duties. Buying time and drilling down can evolve into procrastination or cowardice. Some compromises sell out basic principles. Some people invest their political capital so prudently and escalate so gently that they basically do nothing." (p. 169).
This book is highly recommended as a guide to working in a large organization's political environment.
The book is not a guide to the black-and-white issues of what every leader must do, in order to lead. There are no "be this" or "do this" manifestos articulated in the context of the book that are framed as the context within which leaders lead. Rather, the book explores the nuance and textures of leadership that are difficult to discern in complex contexts. A single quote that helps frame this, that Badarraco takes from a manager involves what he calls the Paradox of Quiet Leaders (p. 88) while noting that Quiet Leaders have "the courage to prudently tackle tough situations" (89). Courage and prudence, while tackling - but not tackling in ways that "stay and fight" nor "fight recklessly" but "consider and calculate" while "invest[ing] their political capital wisely" (90).
Badaracco does not, in his own words, "elaborate a theory, test hypotheses, or offer conclusive proofs." Rather, he "raises questions, prompts reflection, and sketch[es] alternatives to familiar views about leadership and doing the right thing . . . [by]. . . offer[ing] practical advice in the forms of guidelines of action" (181).
Badaracco's ideas have been shaped by Tolstoy, too, including War and Peace . About leadership, Badarraco agrees with Tolstoy that "so-called great leaders were largely creatures of larger historical forces which they neither understood nor influenced, while ordinary individuals, going about their mundane affairs, cumulatively shape the world." (185)
While this ending note might sound a note of passive inactivity - the text asserts quite otherwise. Active, engaged, thoughtful, patient, discerning leaders emerge from years of investing wisely, buying time, bending the rules, nudging, testing, crafting compromise, while restraining, being modest, and having tenacity.
A thoroughly enjoyable read - and one with great questions on pages 186 and 187 that I will use with future learners in Ethics courses that I teach, including thinking about the ethics of Rescuers in the contexts of situations of genocide.