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Never Scratch a Tiger with a Short StickAnd Other Quotations for Leaders
By GORDON S. JACKSON
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2003 Gordon S. Jackson
All right reserved.
IntroductionWhether they welcome the task or not, leaders are continually called upon to scratch the tigers in the organizations they serve. They must do so not knowing exactly where the tiger is itching, how long a stick to use, or just how hard to scratch. Scratching too softly won't satisfy the tiger, and scratching too hard could introduce a host of new problems. All the leader knows is that the tiger is there, he's itchy, and the leader is the one to whom it falls to carry out this high-stakes task. He or she must do so with courage and skill, relying on incomplete information, and in full view of a captivated audience, not all of whom necessarily want a contented tiger.
This notion of scratching a tiger, and finding the right-sized stick to do so, encapsulates some key aspects of a leader's duties. For every leader has three basic concerns: the task at hand, the tools to do it, and the wisdom to know how to proceed. But as with any metaphor, this one too can be carried beyond its usefulness; its purpose here is simply to indicate that this commonsense advice exemplifies well the purpose of this anthology. And that is to offer leaders useful reminders of principles they already know, as well as fresh ideas to equip them for their roles and enable them to think in new ways about the nature, demands, and rewards of leadership.
The quotes included here derive from two assumptions. The first is that in addition to its highly public nature, leadership has a core of qualities that is common to leaders throughout society. Thus, whether you're a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation or a mid-level manager, a school principal, a member of Congress, a pastor or rabbi, a military officer, or a director of an inner-city food bank, as a leader you have taken on a particular set of explicit and implicit responsibilities. All leaders, regardless of their sphere of operation, need to be concerned with who's following them and why, what kind of leadership they are providing, where they intend to go, and how they intend to get there. This anthology is designed to help you think through your commitments in each of those areas.
In addition to assuming that leaders have core qualities in common, this book also assumes that leaders never stop learning to lead. Like doctors, lawyers, and teachers, for example, leaders constantly need to expand their knowledge and perspectives and be reminded of what they already know. Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus say that learning leadership is like learning to play the violin in public. The quotes selected here are therefore designed to help anyone who's learning that instrument. Whether beginners, fairly adept, or playing at concert hall levels, leaders share several characteristics. Not the least of which is their common need for the encouragement, inspiration, reminders of basics, warnings or sound advice that this volume is designed to provide.
To provide an eclectic set of insights on these key dimensions of leadership, I've tried to select quotes whose familiarity indicates they've already proven their lasting value, as well as lesser known contributions that can offer you new ideas and perspectives. The quotations are divided into seventy topics, which are arranged by alphabetical order and are cross-referenced to each other. An additional list of contents is provided on page 7, in which the topics are clustered into seven sections. This listing will be useful if you're seeking quotations that deal with a more focused area, such as "The Nature of Leadership," for example, or "The Leader's Career." You can also search for quotations by author, using the author index at the end of the book.
This anthology is indebted to numerous leadership books and a wide range of other written materials, including other collections of quotations. Quotes from these sources have augmented my own collection of quotations that I have compiled over the past several decades. While I have striven for as high a level of accuracy as possible in recording the hundreds of voices represented here, it is inevitable that some errors, misquotations, or incorrect attributions will be included. Tracking down the precise and original wording of a quote is sometimes a slippery task, as is determining who in fact said or wrote a quote attributed to several speakers or writers. Where necessary, I've tried to find the most reliable and authoritative versions of the quotations I've included. On occasion, I've provided brief descriptions of the speaker or the context of the quote where I thought that would enrich your understanding.
Despite my attempts to present a breadth of perspectives in this collection, relatively few quotations come from non-western sources. The reason that American and British sources dominate is not because these writers and speakers have a monopoly on thinking about leadership. Regrettably, written quotes from non-western sources are comparatively scarce. Similarly, most of the quotes are from men, reflecting the reality that male voices have typically dominated leadership roles in virtually all sectors of our society. Also, some quotations refer to "man," "men," "mankind," or similar generic references to people. As products of an earlier era, these quotations lack the inclusive language that increasingly marks contemporary English. In keeping with a concern to record all quotations accurately, these were included unchanged.
Some of the material that follows draws in part from the prodigious amount of scholarly and popular literature on leadership that has appeared in the past two decades, as this concept has received increasing attention in contemporary western society. Yet this anthology is not intended to provide a systematic overview of this rich body of material. What follows is purely a personal selection of quotes that I believe will appeal to people in leadership positions. Nor does this volume seek to reflect or advance any one of the several schools of thought currently marking our understanding of leadership. If this book has a bias, it would be toward the notion of servant leadership, a concept popularized by Robert Greenleaf. And if it has a bias against any material, it would be to exclude or minimize the cynicism toward leadership that tends to mark much popular culture in the contemporary United States. Far from seeing managers and leaders with the cynical or even nihilistic views of cartoon characters like "Dilbert" or "The Simpsons," this volume unapologetically regards good leadership as something to be encouraged and nurtured at all levels and in all sectors of our society. Leaders we will always have with us; our task is to seek out, nurture, and hold accountable the best ones we can. It is my hope that this book can in some modest way help to attain that end.
Excerpted from Never Scratch a Tiger with a Short Stick by GORDON S. JACKSON Copyright © 2003 by Gordon S. Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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