Customer Reviews: Ultimate Leadership: Winning Execution Strategies for Your Situation
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on April 10, 2008
This book interested me once I discovered the author and I both share experiences as CPA's, as being involved with nonprofits, and being entrepreneurs. I enjoyed reading it. The first three chapters were a bit of a struggle for me to get through because I didn't particularly like the author's writing style or repeatedly hearing about who he was. But I loved chapters 4 through 9 and 11.

I kind of expected the book to be a treatise on the traits and styles used by ultimate leaders. I was pleasantly surprised that the book was organized for the most part around the author's varied career and his work experiences. His first career right out of college was to quickly climb the ranks of the smallest of the Big 8 public accounting firms (Touche Ross). He labels that era of his leadership as being in an organization of his peers. Next he retired from public accounting to become the head of U. Penn's business school (Wharton) where he grew the school's reputation and he became an impressive nonprofit fundraiser. He labels that era of his leadership as being in an academic organization. It's my opinion that that era of his leadership was spent in a nonprofit organization. And lastly, the author moved on to leading in an entrepreneurial organization by starting his own company - The Palmer Group.

I loved the material included in chapters 5 (crisis) and 6 (change), but I found the content to be somewhat repetitive. I think the material could have been consolidated and made into one chapter. I think I would put that new chapter in an appendix since it did not relate directly to the author's three stories (Touche, Wharton, & Palmer). And chapters 3 (top-down management) and 10 (motivating employees) could be eliminated or relegated to appendix material, too. All three chapters seemed to be sideshows to me.

I would have liked the book better if Chapter 11 was moved to the front of the book as Chapter 1, and chapters 1 and 2 were consolidated to only cover the "basic leadership principles" and the "organizaton contexts." I didn't think very much of Chapter 1 added value to the book. There was too much telling me about what was to come later in the book.

All I wanted to learn from the book was the author's take on his leadership experiences gained during his three careers. The Touche Ross stuff was covered in chapters 4 and 9. The Wharton School stuff was covered in Chapter 8. And the Palmer Group stuff was covered in Chapter 7. Those four chapters were the real meat of the book for me. 4 stars!
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on March 12, 2008
Russell E. Palmer offers a unique look at what often seems like cliched topic - Leadership.

Drawing on his varied experience as head of one of the world's largest accounting firms, Dean of the Wharton School, and an entrepreneur, Palmer identifies the leadership model most appropriate for your situation.

Ultimately, leadership boils down to inspiration. Your ability to help organizations weather stormy seas and mold its culture to change with changing times is the ultimate test of your ability to lead. Understanding and applying principles is not enough. Your approach needs to change with the context of the situation.

Palmer supports his view with insights from leaders as diverse as Gordon Bethune, Larry Bossidy, David M. Cote, and Jacob Wallenberg, P.X. Kelley, Erik K. Shinseki, Tom Ehrlich, David Reibstein, Michael Useem, and Yoram (Jerry) Wind.

Leadership is never a coincidence. Palmer stresses it is built on character and performance standards to which everyone is held accountable.
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Author Russell Palmer contends that the "tool kit" a leader brings to the table, coupled with the factors present in each unique enviroment are key factors in leading with effectiveness--or not.

The author brings real-life situations to illustrate his points; I found the chapter on mergers and organizational changes most interesting as this is something that happens frequently in business and is a sweeping change with an almost storm-like effect on an organization and the leadership. The author contrasts the ineffective leader who only surrounds himself with people he can trust versus someone who embraces the change and takes risks, not only in whom he places on his team but in doing really deep investigation into things that could be deliberately hidden or played down (concealed debt, liabilities, failures in delivery, etc.) The author also discusses the necessity for personal recognizance even when there is no personal liability as a huge factor in determining if an organization will survive a change or go down like a house of cards.

The last chapter s a shopping list of traits an effective leader should aspire to, including following strategic plans, fostering innovation, exercising prudent and good judgment, building confidence, staying one step ahead and trusting and engaging contributors to release their potential.

A good set of advice with worthy examples of successes and failures.
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on July 28, 2011
The principles of leadership can be effective in a wide variety of situations, but they often need to be applied in a very different manner depending on the circumstances and the constituent groups involved, according to Russell Palmer in this book. Effective leadership requires an understanding not just of the principles of leadership but also of the context in which those principles are applied.

The book starts by listing what the author describes as the basic principles of successful leadership, and then goes on to describe a number of different leadership contexts, including:

* The top-down organization, such as the military, which requires a strong leader who must empower the leadership throughout the organization.
* The organization of peers, in which the leader requires tact and skill in uniting the peers around a common vision.
* The organization in crisis, in which the leader has to step forward and personally take charge, acting rapidly while remaining calm under fire.
* Transforming the culture of an organization, which requires the leader to use tenacity and resilience to overcome organizational inertia.
* The entrepreneurial organization, in which the leader requires negotiating skills to bring together investors, advisors, customers, vendors and others around a vision.
* The academic organization, which requires a firm and persistent but highly consultative and collaborative leadership style.
* Leading in a global environment, which requires an understanding of the different national cultures in which the organization operates.

I found the book thoroughly entertaining, as the author recounted many of his experiences in his three different careers as managing partner of the international accounting firm Touche Ross (an organization of peers), dean of the Wharton School (an academic organization), and CEO of the Palmer Group (an entrepreneurial organization). However, given Wharton's reputation for academic rigour, I was expecting a more comprehensive treatment of the subject of leadership. Nonetheless there is plenty of wisdom to be gleaned from the book, and I highly recommend it.
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on June 4, 2015
Not read but want out of my reviews. There is no way to hide them. Amazon can keep or delete as they wish, but I would like it out of my review section. They can improve the feature to allow us to hide products we aren't ready to review.
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VINE VOICEon April 28, 2008
In the game of golf, the principles of the golf swing, the putting stroke and the short game are essential for good play. These principles, though, must be adapted to the weather and course conditions or the golfer will play poorly. Author Russell Palmer in his "Ultimate Leadership" builds on this concept and, with his personal experience as a backdrop, highlights the importance of applying leadership principles to the context in which the leader is operating.

Palmer has excellent credentials. He served as Managing Partner and CEO of Touche Ross & Company before leaving after ten years to become the first non-academic Dean of the Wharton School. Most recently, he founded the Palmer Group, an investment company focused on entrepreneurial opportunities.

"Ultimate Leadership" outlines the basic principles of successful leadership (judgment, character, tenacity, and resilience to name four) then shows, through personal and third party examples, how these should be applied in varying contexts, including: command and control organizations - (the military and corporations); partnership of peers; entrepreneurial organizations; academic institutions; foundations; non-profits; business roundtables and other peer groups; and organizations in crisis.

Palmer concludes with chapters centered on "How Leaders Transform Organizations," "National Cultures and Context: Leading in a global environment," "The Heart of Leadership," and "Putting It All Together." He feels that the best training for business leaders is a strong liberal arts (the study of history and the reading of biographies) program followed by business school. He also believes leaders must play to his/her strengths and not to conform to someone else's image of leadership.

This is an excellent read for those who aspire to be leaders. For those who want to learn more about leadership in the social sector and entrepreneurial leadership (they have many similarities), I highly recommend Jim Collin's "Good to Great and the Social Sectors."
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on February 23, 2008
"Leadership alone is the key differentiator between organizations that succeed and those that fail," writes Russell E. Palmer in "Ultimate Leadership." Palmer demonstrates the truth of this thesis by taking his readers through situations in his own, very impressive, career and as well as through those of others in the elite offices of business, academia, government, and the military.

Leadership is about people, he insists, and his scenarios are about how "leaders" inspire, lead, and get the best from their employees, boards of directors, and colleagues. A major focus of "Ultimate Leadership" is how essential it is for leaders to realize that different leadership styles are demanded by different contexts. Defining the extremes, he says the military requires "top-down" leadership, while an academic institution must be lead in a peer-to-peer collegial style. Although he doesn't address how these principles apply to everyday life, it's easy to make the leap.

The autobiographical aspect of "Ultimate Leadership" demonstrates the importance of a leader's ability to understand different contexts and to change his leadership style to fit the context. At age 37, Palmer became the youngest managing partner of Touche Ross, then one of the Big Eight CPA professional services firms. After that he became Dean of the Wharton School of Business, where through his "Plan for Pre-eminence" he led Wharton to become one of the top business schools in the nation. Believing no one should stay in a job for too long, he did not accept the Wharton's offer for a second term and he began a search for his next endeavor. He writes that he wanted to: "Have fun and do something meaningful, do something of excellence that I could be proud of, be successful and make some money." The Palmer Group is the result and it seems to be filling those needs.

Palmer writes lucidly and interestingly, with touches of humor that make his ideas accessible. The qualities and skills he cites as essential for leadership can also be important for everyday life; among them are integrity, careful listening, and good communication skills. How many parents would like to be able to inspire our children to achieve their greatest potential?
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on July 20, 2012
'Ultimate Leadership' explains it well with excellent examples and in various contexts. I can imagine that the small to medium sized business can use this as a training tool for their supervisors. For MBA Students, this is a MUST read, MUST have reference book. For leadership teachers, this is a terrific set to use in considering as a benchmark against your own curriculum. I heard DR Robert Schuller say 'Leadership is the force that makes things happen'.
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on February 13, 2008
I especially enjoyed chapter 4, in context with leading partners - it is a challenge. The author's discussion of "context" in which to apply different leadership styles is right on. Although not the leader that Russell Palmer is, I find myself shifting gears and adapting to different leadership styles in different contexts - whether it be with: my national buying group, my CEO Forum of local manufacturers, my networking groups, with my partners, my employees, or on a board of directors of an organization. I enjoyed the read and the perspective that Russell Palmer shared in this book.
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on May 25, 2013
Not a very interesting book. It did not state any significant leadership insights, considering his experience, and the book boils down to the following: a leader needs to adapt to his or her context. If you understand the statement you understand what this book is about. Good thing I got the kindle book for free here at Amazon (because Amazon rocks).
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