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The economy uncertain, education in decline, cities under siege, crime and poverty spiraling upward, international relations roiling: we look to leaders for solutions, and when they don't deliver, we simply add their failure to our list of woes. In doing do, we do them and ourselves a grave disservice. We are indeed facing an unprecedented crisis of leadership, Ronald Heifetz avows, but it stems as much from our demands and expectations as from any leader's inability to meet them. His book gets at both of these problems, offering a practical approach to leadership for those who lead as well as those who look to them for answers. Fitting the theory and practice of leadership to our extraordinary times, the book promotes a new social contract, a revitalization of our civic life just when we most need it.
Drawing on a dozen years of research among managers, officers, and politicians in the public realm and the private sector, among the nonprofits, and in teaching, Heifetz presents clear, concrete prescriptions for anyone who needs to take the lead in almost any situation, under almost any organizational conditions, no matter who is in charge, His strategy applies not only to people at the top but also to those who must lead without authority--activists as well as presidents, managers as well as workers on the front line.
Ronald A. Heifetz, professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, presents clear, concrete strategies for anyone who needs to take charge--no matter what the organizational conditions. Drawing on a dozen years of research among business leaders and politicians, Heifetz demonstrates what one must do--and avoid doing--to be a leader in an age without easy answers.
This pioneering study constitutes one of the most insightful and innovative approaches to leadership studies in over a decade...Heifetz masterfully presents his new leadership model by intertwining general theory and prescriptive practical guidance through fertile historical and work-place case studies. Heifetz's goal is nothing less than a summoning for a new social contract that seeks to revitalize America's civic ethos by adopting leadership strategies to empower the citizenry rather than to merely enhance the authority of the leader...The upshot of this study should place it in the front line in leadership historiography for years to come.
— R. J. Lettieri
Leadership Without Easy Answers is a masterwork of great subtlety, and of punch and practicality. Leadership is not value-free, Mr. Heifetz writes...[The author puts] soul and values squarely back into a vital topic, leadership.
— Tom Peters
Ronald Heifetz brings knowledge of an astonishingly wide range of disciplines to this study of leadership...As a musician, a cellist, he understands that the quality of a performance depends on the audience as well as on the instrumentalist...As a psychiatrist, Heifetz understands that communities cannot be pushed beyond their capacity to adapt...These insights give to Heifetz's book an originality and vivacity one rarely associates with studies on leadership. He illustrates his theses with an extraordinary range of cases and examples...Leadership Without Easy Answers reminds us of democracy's rich potential. It is a bold book and an encouraging one. I hope some of our leaders are out there learning.
— Shirley Williams
Ronald Heifetz has written an interesting and timely book, in which he moves away from the idea of leaders as visionaries and saviors to stressing leadership as an activity as opposed to a position of authority or a set of personal charcateristics.
— Robert Hooijberg
Posted January 2, 2014
This book paints with broad strokes and illustrates principles of leadership with surprising detail. This is an impressive accomplishment.
I found the author’s analysis of three different types of leadership situations very useful:
Situation Problem definition Solution and implementation Primary locus of responsibility for the work Kind of work
Type I Clear Clear Expert Technical
Type II Clear Requires learning Expert and individual Technical and adaptive
Type III Requires learning Requires learning Individual > expert Adaptive
Dr. Heifetz’s distinction between technical and adaptive leadership behaviors is also extremely insightful:
Social function Technical problem Adaptive problem
Direction Expert provides problem definition and solution Expert identifies the adaptive challenge, provides diagnosis of condition, and produces questions about problem definitions and solutions
Protection Expert protects from external threat Expert discloses external threat
Role orientation Expert orients Expert disorients current roles, or resists pressure to orient people in new roles too quickly
Controlling conflict Expert restores order Expert exposes conflict, or lets it emerge
Norm maintenance Expert maintains norms Expert challenges norms, or allows them to be challenged
The author then suggests the following elements of effective leadership:
identifying the adaptive challenge
keeping distress within a productive range
directing attention to ripening issues and not diversions
giving the work back to the people
protecting voices of leadership in the community
Finally, Dr. Heifetz provides the leader seven steps to handling the burden of leadership:
get on the balcony
distinguish self from role
externalize the conflict
listen, using oneself as data
find a sanctuary
preserve a sense of purpose
It is this final point, leading from a strong sense of the importance of the work, that begins and ends the author’s thesis and analysis.
Without purpose, it is impossible to judge the value and effectiveness of a leader’s work.
Although this book was dense and difficult to get through, I highly recommend it. It is deep and wide.
Posted October 15, 2013
Posted September 30, 2009
This book provides a discussion of just how complicated leadership is and how challenging it can be to lead in a responsible, ethical fashion. Ronald A. Heifetz analyzes a number of leaders who faced not just crises, but transformational situations. As the book's title promises, Heifetz doesn't take shortcuts; he carefully looks at the complexities that leadership, power and authority involve. His examples range from Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson to Adolf Hitler. To make his point, he uses metaphors from biology, music and the military and draws lessons from history. getAbstract recommends this thoughtful look at leadership to all serious students of the topic. It will force you to reject the easy, superficial answers that make up so much of leadership literature. In their place, Heifetz offers approaches for observing contexts, balancing various factors and monitoring growth.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2009
This is a great book. However, like a H. William Dettmer book, this is anything but easy to read! My brain hurts after reading "Leadership" for just a few minutes.
Heifetz was talking about the mixed views in society on page 35, when I first noticed his reference to "vantage points". I would suggest that it is more profound in business organizations. Like the Hammer and Nail analogy (when the only tool you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!), if you are in Customer Support and the business is losing market share (or worse), your vantage point suggests that paying more attention to the customer and their problems must be the answer to turning the business around.
Wrong. But it is important.
Until I could experience the challenges of a broken business from multiple orientations, I was not very effective. Just one example from the book: Heifetz dissected President Johnson's (LBJ) successful leadership on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in doing so, alerted me to a phenomenon that had never occurred to me: LBJ authored no vision of his own in this matter.
This text defines a most thorough framework for leadership. So completely that it has become my defacto standard in this matter. All other books pale in comparison.
It is that profound.
Posted November 2, 2002
We are inclined to attribute our problems to our politicians and executives, as if they were the cause of them. We are scapegoating people in authority for their inability to quickly fix our problem without bothering us or involving us into the solution of our problems. Instead of looking for saviors, we should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions -- problems that require us to learn new ways. We have many such problems: uncompetitive industry, terrorism, drug abuse, poverty, poor public education, environment hazards, and obstacles to constructive foreign and domestic relations. People in authority cannot quickly resolve such problems as terrorism. They can rather give us a feeling of satisfaction by skillfully applying ready technical means: bombing known terrorists' camps in Afghanistan or applying "sleeping gas" and elite soldiers onto the guerillas in the "Nord Ost" theater in Moscow. But this is only cutting the symptoms, this is not enough to solve the problem with the deep roots. The whole world should be mobilized to work on this issues, and when every child on the world will be born in the atmosphere of happiness and freedom, in a society that encourages intellectual growth and humility rather than fanatism and bomb-suicide as a goal of the life -- then and only then we can consider terrorism is eliminated. Mr. Heifets provides tangible guidance for a leader to solve complex issues without risk to be scapegoated or assassinated. This book is a good manual without easy answers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2002
Ron Heifetz Leadership Without Easty answers provides insight and encouragement for the journey - the journey of all those who hope to 'make a difference' through social action and social change. He reminds us that politics is never 'pure' or 'ideal' and is is selcom effective if it is. But clear goals, values clarified and effective use of political compromise can move us forward - in the desired direction. How I wish this book was standard reading for government leaders and those trying to negotiate peace in so many of the world's troubled war zones.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 25, 2001
As a holder of a Doctorate in leadership I am very critical of the usually poor and narrow quality of the books and articles written on leadership. Mr. Heifetz has written one of the best books on leadership that has been published in the past ten years. He is clear and on what the challenges of leadership are. His insights are based largely on research not on opinion or fads. If you are a student of leadership this should be one of your main sources of information.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2001
While Mr. Heifetz correctly identifies the problem of leadership today as too 'leader focused,' he does not convey his thought in simple, succint language. The narrow use of illustrative material from the 1960's demonstrates a somewhat liberal bias. The scientific viewpoint from which the book is written makes it an extremely hard read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 29, 2010
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Posted March 12, 2011
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