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Review: Leading & Leadership

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Below is the review I wrote for my company’s newsletter, on Leading & Leadership. If you’d like more information about Chiefist, please contact us.

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Most of our clients and subscribers have a keen interest in leadership. As investors, you must judge leaders  — their abilities, skills, character and performance. As leaders in your firms, you must motivate your teams, make critical decisions and find ways to differentiate your firm and services in a crowded, competitive industry.

At Chiefist, we primarily serve clients in that first role. With our analytical tools, executive profiles and searches, and actionable trading ideas, we support the appraisal of corporate leadership as a key element of investment due diligence. But more broadly, we aid clients by offering unique ideas. And when we find a good leadership idea, we would be remiss not to share it — in this case, a book of fascinating ideas.

In Leading & Leadership, editor Timothy Fuller surveys some of history’s greatest thinking on the subject of leadership. He includes writings from Confucius, Homer, Plato, Machiavelli, Aquinas, Washington, Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. It also contains important contributions from modern writers, including Ronald Glassman and Abraham Zaleznik. (Future editions would benefit from adding William Deresiewicz’s excellent speech, “Solitude and Leadership”.)

The book contains much wisdom about the characteristics and ethos of leadership. Every executive should read Zaleznik on “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” Washington’s “Farewell Address” should serve as a model for thoughtful succession transitions. The tension between Machiavelli’s and Aquinas’s conceptions of leadership are played out in organizations every day.

Individual readers will of course find their favorites among the chapters. Taken as a whole, the book offers a useful and needed counterweight to today’s often vacuous prattle on the subject. Our study of leadership needs practical advice, analysis of hard numbers and modern examples. But it also requires philosophical reflection, reasoned and dispassionate consideration, and a historical perspective. What emerges is a powerful reminder of the complexities and nuances of leadership. That reminder can only help us both to better evaluate the leaders in investments we’re considering, and to more effectively lead our own organizations.

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Written by Russell S.

June 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm