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Book Review
Leadership

Leadership by Paul Thornton is a book full of triangles. The author describes just about every topic he covers in terms of three key components, which he then presents as sides of a triangle.

One key topic in the book involves possibilities. The three sides of that triangle are seeing, describing and pursuing.

There is a chapter called The Three C's of Leadership. That triangle has sides named challenge, confidence, and coaching.

After a while you go a little triangle crazy. But that's not the only problem with this book. Consider the chapter about self-fulfilling prophecy. The triangle for that chapter is assumptions, expectations, and reactions.

The triangle here is less than helpful. The muddled writing makes things even worse. Thornton is talking about what everyone else calls the Pygmalion Effect but he uses very different language so you have to work harder than you might otherwise.

There are similar problems throughout the book. The organization is not tight. The metaphors are not consistent. The writing is not clear, and some things seem like they are thrown in just to fill up enough pages to get above a hundred.

"But, is it worth reading?" I hear you cry. The answer to that one is an emphatic "it depends."

This book is a collection of thoughts about leadership by an experienced manager. Many of those thoughts are insightful and they can be helpful. How much value you get from this book will depend a lot on your own experience level.

If you are a relatively experienced manager yourself, you will probably find a thing or two in here that you can carry away. What you get will be worth the price of the book.

If you have access to the author, in one of his classes, on a tele-seminar or at a speech where you can ask questions, this book will probably be helpful. In those situations you can ask questions to clarify things or hear the nuance of oral presentation.

But if you are a new manager, out there by yourself, beware of this book. There are good things here, but the organization and the writing style can make them very hard to tease out. It's very easy to see only part and not the whole of what Thornton is trying to convey.

This is also one of those "leader as hero" books. You are treated to statements like this. "Leaders help individuals, teams, and organizations become more and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Why do they do it? They have a burning desire to make a difference."

Or this. "Leaders have desire, passion, and energy for their vision. They are excited about the possibilities they see for people, teams, and organizations they are leading. Leaders know their actions will make a difference."

Evidently lust for power and position and naked ambition don't show up among the leaders in Mr. Thornton's world. That makes his world different from the one that I inhabit, where those things are a regular part of the landscape and altruistic motives often remain well hidden.

There's one more problem area if you're a new manager. There is lots of advice about what to do, but not much guidance about how to do it. If you want to learn the basics, go to other books like Kouzes and Posner's The Leadership Challenge.

If you have been around the leadership game for a while, this book will give you the insights and opinions of another experienced manager. You'll see things differently; understand the way another manager understands them. That may be worth the price of the book. But if you're new to the management/leadership game, pass this one up.

To see what others thought of this book, or to purchase it from Amazon, click here.

Wally

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