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What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential Hardcover – July 19, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The areas appear as chapters with a concluding section that underlines his findings, making the book easy to follow.” — Director magazine

“Leaders don’t have all the answers … When you’re unsure what to do next, it’s time to answer the questions that Kaplan poses in his seven steps.” – Dallas Morning News

“Kaplan's business philosophy, applicable to everyone from CEOs to new college graduates, begins with a willingness to ask questions.” – Chicago Tribune

“the key strength of the book is its practical approach. – People Management

“In his timeless book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, Kaplan offers seven basic types of inquiry or areas of focus—actually a system of inquiry that ties the leadership function together—that you should be looking at on a regular basis.” - LeadershipNow

“Kaplan is part of a refreshing vanguard of management scholars who no longer view the CEO as a superhero, the corner office Zeus who creates value by force of will and top-down edict. Rather, the modern executive is reflective, empathetic, full of self-awareness, someone who leads by example and by motivation, not by power and fear.” – BNET

“…Kaplan argues against the notion that great leadership is about having all the answers. He believes that leadership skills can be learned—and that many of these skills require executives to rethink their conception of what a superb leader actually does. Developing and practicing these skills requires hard work and may demand that talented executives overcome some degree of discomfort and even anxiety in order to raise their game.” – HBS Working Knowledge

“Throughout the cabinet file of information stacked into these pages, challenging questions are asked that will make you ponder the success rate of leadership strategies you employ.” – Kennedy Book Reviews

“Grab a copy of this easy-to-read yet deeply insightful book.” – 800 CEO READ

“Reading Rob Kaplan’s brilliant new book is like being coached by a great mentor. Written clearly and lucidly, with dozens of real-world examples, Kaplan’s savvy and practical advice results from hundreds of outstanding leaders he has mentored successfully. Don’t just read it—incorporate his ideas into your leadership.” — Bill George
Author, True North; professor of management practice, Harvard Business School

“Rob Kaplan is an outstanding leader and business executive. In What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, he provides a valuable and adaptable framework that can be used by business and nonprofit leaders. This book lays out the important questions that leaders should ask in order to achieve their goals and reach their potential.” — Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
Seventy-fourth Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury; Chairman and CEO , Goldman Sachs (1999–2006)

“Kaplan succeeds in translating his vast knowledge of the leadership field into clear, graceful language, almost as if he is having a conversation with the reader. He tells engaging stories to illustrate his general points—the most effective way to give abstract concepts life. This book should have a wide readership.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin
Pulitzer Prize–winning presidential historian and author, Team of Rivals

About the Author

Robert Steven Kaplan is president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Previously, he was the Senior Associate Dean for External Relations and Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is the author of three books: What You Really Need to Lead, What You’re Really Meant to Do and What to Ask the Person in the Mirror.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422170012
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422170014
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For than 2,000 years, those who mastered the Socratic method of inquiry have demonstrated the value of asking the right questions in the right way. It is a skill that anyone can master. What we have in this volume is still another explanation of how and why framing the right questions can help aspiring leaders, especially, to take greater ownership of what is most important to them. They do so by completing a process that consists of a series of questions:

o What do I need to know? Why?
o Where and how can I obtain the information I need?
o How and when will I take action on what I have learned?
o To what extent (if any) will I need assistance?
o How can I best measure the progress and impact of my efforts?

Robert Steven Kaplan has carefully organized his material within seven "areas of focus" that are most relevant to the fulfilling the career ambitions and personal fulfillment of aspiring leaders. He devotes a separate chapter to each and then, in Chapter 8, he explains how to "bring it all together" in the proper perspective. His stated purpose is to formulate a "menu of potential inquiry" and create a process by which key questions can be framed and debated. I fully agree with Kaplan that the challenge is twofold: "framing the right questions, and, getting in the regular habit of stepping back and asking them." It's that simple...and that difficult.

How so "difficult"? Consider the nature of a crisis: It frequently occurs unexpectedly and requires immediate attention. With rare exception, there is an insufficiency of information initially; pressure and stress intensify exponentially while a response is being determined. The right answers, the best decisions, require asking the right questions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to say I was extremely excited to buy this book; as a leadership coach and a fan of Kaplan's work, the title really appealed to me. I am always seeking information on critical questions leaders can ask of themselves to become better at what they do. However, after reading the first half of the book, not only was I disappointed at the lack of critical questions that leaders should be asking themselves, but I was surprised at how "basic" the information of the book is. There is really nothing new here. Yes, there is good info on creating and communicating your vision, giving and receiving feedback, and the importance of succession planning but nothing that cannot be found in countless other books out there on leadership. I expected much more from a Harvard Business / Robert Steven Kaplan book.
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Format: Hardcover
Kaplan's "What to Ask the Person in the Mirror" is a must-read for anyone who aspires to achieve as a leader. I believe that his excellent management philosophy is applicable for both Fortune 500 CEOs and aspiring junior employees. Kaplan's unique experiences and knowledge have provided him with extraordinary insight into what makes successful leaders and organizations across the for-profit and not-for-profit universes. I was impressed with the book's structure and felt that the vignettes made his lessons easily accessible and exciting!

As a relatively junior professional in a large American corporation, I have found Kaplan's book incredibly helpful. "What to Ask the Person in the Mirror" has helped me create a framework in which to think about problem solving and my career and life goals. Kaplan's knowledge and advice have provided me with what I believe to be a powerful approach to management and leadership as I continue my career and hopefully expand my role. I plan to reread Kaplan's book in the future in order to evaluate myself and to refresh his timeless lessons.

I enthusiastically recommend this book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Personally I left challenged to become better at coaching my staff, for that I'm grateful for the read. Worth it too for its challenge to coach as a means of serving employees and attracting talented people.
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As a leadership book I'd say this one is OK, but that's as far as I'd go. I don't think it goes into grass-roots leadership anywhere deeply enough. For me it was more academia than real-life. The book is predictable, which is not so bad if it's predictable while containing many good lessons, but take out the case histories and you could sum up the lessons in this book in twenty or so pages. @garypittard - #garypittard
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Format: Hardcover
By Robert Steven Kaplan (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011)

The first statement in the introduction starts this superb book off on the right reflection in the mirror, "Great leadership is not about having all the answers-it is, more often, about having the courage to ask the critical questions." Throughout the cabinet file of information stacked into these pages, challenging questions are asked that will make you ponder the success rate of the leadership strategies you employ; in addition, this book educates you on how to ask the right questions to produce the desired answers.

This book is divided into eight main parts: Visions and Priorities, Managing Your Time, Giving and Getting Feedback, Succession Planning and Delegation, Evaluation and Alignment, The Leader as Role Model, Reaching Your Potential, and Bringing It All Together. Picturesque stories are told, which work to illustrate the key points and present the situations discussed in real-world examples. Suggested follow-up steps are skillfully placed among the 264 pages of this book, which will work to assist you at fully grasping the concepts discussed.

In the appendix of this book, there is a page that illustrates What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: A Framework, which can prove to be a beneficial resource when working your way through the text. Bound in a durable hardcover, this book would make an exceptional treasure in your personal library, conveniently placed on your desk, or given as a gift.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Harvard Business Review Press book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255vf: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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