The Extraordinary Leader distances itself safely from the purely anecdotal and complex approaches to tell us what great leaders really bring to the party. The authors, John H. Zenger and Joseph R. Folkman, do their best to unravel the mystery of leadership through careful analysis of huge database, of more than 200,000 assessments describing 20,000 managers, but in the a readable manner. The book centres around a conceptual framework, which the authors call "The Leadership Tent". This framework approaches leadership based on five clusters of competencies — character, personal capability, focus on results, interpersonal skills and leading organisational change.
Based on the framework, the authors build their leadership insights. These include: "great leaders make a huge difference compared to good ones"; "one organisation can have many great leaders"; "great leadership consists of possessing several capabilities, and not just one"; "effective leadership practices are specific to an organisation culture"; "key to developing great leadership is to build on strengths, rather than eliminate weaknesses"; and so on. Though some of these are well known, this book adds more credibility by backing it up with data.
The core thesis of this book is that individuals have a dramatic impact on their organisations, as they move from good to extraordinary leaders. While good leaders make reasonable profits, extraordinary leaders double them. Great leaders make a great difference to bottom lines.
However, the book tries to delve into too many insights, which is confusing. In fact, 20 of them are introduced in the first chapter itself. Though all of them are useful, they might fail to keep the attention of the readers.
Sangeeth Varghese is the author of the book Decide to Lead (This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 28-09-2009)
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