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Leadership Without Easy Answers

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

James MacGregor Burns
Alive with insights, concepts, new ideas, just teeming with the kind of creative approach to the study of leadership that I and of course many others esteem. In a field in which there has been a great deal of repetitious work, Heifetz strikes out in ground-breaking directions.
New York Times Book Review - Tom Peters
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.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Shirley Williams
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.
Choice - R. J. Lettieri
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.
Journal of Leadership Studies - Robert Hooijberg
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.
M. Scott Peck
A superb book for any age, but particularly for our current one, where society is so desperately in need of its wisdom and expertise. Leadership without Easy Answers should be required reading for top managers in all sectors--private, public, and nonprofit. I hope it will also be widely read by the citizenry that is so much in need of an attitude shift on the nature of authority. This book is also very much about citizenship.
James Macgregor Burns
Alive with insights, concepts, new ideas, just teeming with the kind of creative approach to the study of leadership that I and of course many others esteem. In a field in which there has been a great deal of repetitious work, Heifetz strikes out in ground-breaking directions.
General Walter Ulmer
Remarkably thoughtful, provocative, and useful. This book will be seen as a major contribution that provides a rare interdisciplinary view of leadership in context. Leaders as well as serious students of the process of leadership and the development of leaders need to have this book on their shelves.
James David Barber
Heifetz turns out to be one of the most thoughtful scholars on leadership. His direct and relevant concepts are pathbreaking.
John Gardner
Original and penetrating in its analysis of leadership. This is an excellent book. Important and valuable.
Peter Senge
Leadership without Easy Answers should go a long way toward clearing up many confusions about leadership. Long a master teacher of leaders, Heifetz's courses and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government have been standing-room only for years. Read this book and see why.
Choice

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

New York Times Book Review

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

Times Higher Education Supplement

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

Journal of Leadership Studies

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

Choice
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
New York Times Book Review
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
Times Higher Education Supplement
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
Journal of Leadership Studies
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
Library Journal
Heifetz (Kennedy Sch. of Government, Harvard Univ.) presents a new theory of leadership for both public and private leaders in tackling complex contemporary problems. Central to his theory is the distinction between routine technical problems, which can be solved through expertise, and adaptive problems, such as crime, poverty, and educational reform, which require innovative approaches, including consideration of values. Four major strategies of leadership are identified: to approach problems as adaptive challenges by diagnosing the situation in light of the values involved and avoiding authoritative solutions, to regulate the level of stress caused by confronting issues, to focus on relevant issues, and to shift responsibility for problems from the leader to all the primary stakeholders. The theory is applied to an analysis of historical accounts of local, national, and international events. An innovative and thoroughgoing work; highly recommmended for graduate and undergraduate collections.-Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict Lib., St. Joseph, Minn.
Booknews
Heifetz (Harvard U.) offers a practical approach to leadership for those who lead as well as those who look to them for answers, drawing on research among managers, offices, and politicians in the public and private sectors. He discusses leading with and without authority, values in leadership, the roots of authority, and leaders such as Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674518582
  • Publisher: Harvard
  • Publication date: 7/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 93,699
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Heifetz is the King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership and Founder, Center for Public Leadership, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

  • Foreword
    by Richard L. Neustadt
  • Introduction


  1. Part I. Setting the Frame
  2. Values in Leadership
  3. To Lead or Mislead?
  4. The Roots of Authority

  5. Part II. Leading with Authority
  6. Mobilizing Adaptive Work S Applying Power
  7. On a Razor's Edge
  8. Failing Off the Edge

  9. Part III. Leading Without Authority
  10. Creative Deviance on the Frontline
  11. Modulating the Provocation

  12. Part IV. Staying Alive
  13. Assassination
  14. The Personal Challenge

  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This book paints with broad strokes and illustrates principles o

    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
    use partners
    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2013

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  • Posted September 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Classic manual about leadership's complexity

    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.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The definitive text on Leadership

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2002

    Tangible Guidance

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2002

    No Easy Answers - But Case Studies that Mentor

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2001

    One of the Best!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Leadership for a New Age

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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