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On Leadership / Edition 1

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In this series of lectures, previously unpublished in English, and here translated from a French reconstruction and interpretation by noted scholar Thierry Weil, leading organizational scholar James March uses great works of literature to explore the problems of leadership.

  • Uses great works of literature to explore the problems of leadership, for example War and Peace, Othello, and Don Quixote.
  • Presents moral dilemmas related to leadership, for example the balance between private life and public duties, and between the expression and the control of sexuality.
  • Encourages readers to explore ideas that are sometimes subversive and unpalatable but may allow organizations to adapt in a rapidly changing world.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the most refreshing, insightful and thought-provoking books on leadership. This intelligent treatment opens up many new lines of inquiry and offers many new theoretical and practical insights." John Storey, The Open University Business School

“This is a book for leaders, and for those of us who watch our leaders with appreciation, distaste, empathy, and frustration. Professor March shakes the foundations of how we think about leadership…This book will not offer you six easy steps to becoming an effective leader, but it will provoke, amuse, challenge, and irritate you. It will force you to think about leadership in ways that will destroy your innocence.” Joanne Martin, Stanford University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405132473
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 11/4/2005
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 146
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

James G. March is Jack Steele Parker Professor of International Management Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Sociology and Education at Stanford University. He has inspired generations of students with his work in the study of organizations. His previous publications include Decisions and Organizations (1989), Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Second Edition, 1992), Organizations (Second Edition, 1993) and The Pursuit of Organizational Intelligence (1998), all published by Blackwell Publishing.

Thierry Weil, a former physicist, is Professor of Technology Management at École des Mines de Paris, where he was the Dean of research and graduate studies from 1991 to 1995. He also advises companies and policy makers on the management of innovation. From 2000 to 2002, he acted as scientific advisor to the Prime Minister of France, Lionel Jospin.

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Table of Contents

Foreword - Jean-Claude Thoenig.

Preface - James G. March.

Preface - Thierry Weil.

1. Introduction: an original approach to a hackneyed subject.

The organization of the course.

From oral to written presentation.

Issues linked with leadership.

2. Othello: leadership and private life, innocence and cleverness, revenge and the social order.

Prologue on the appreciation of leaders.

Private life and public role.

Can revenge serve the social order?.

Cleverness, innocence, and virtue.

Why do people act as they do?.

The characters in Othello.

3. Saint Joan: are heretics mad or are they geniuses?.

Exploitation and exploration.

Can leaders selected for their reliability be turned into creative leaders?.

Diversity and unity.

Saint Joan.

4. War and Peace: ambiguity, incoherence, and irrelevance.

Ambiguity and incoherence: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

Leaders confronted by ambiguity.

A novel with a structure reflecting a view of history: irrelevance.

The social order in War and Peace.

What is power?.

The powerlessness of power.

Power and hierarchy.

Power as seen by those who do not have it.

Assuming the ambivalence of power.

Identity and social order: the characters in War and Peace.

Heroism and irrelevance.

The social order based on merit.

Why we are disappointed by our bosses.

Why are bosses not particularly clever?.

5. Sex and leadership.

The sexed nature of leadership in organizations.

Sexuality and organizations.

Private fantasies and social control of behavior.

Sexual harassment.

Sexual relationships.

Ambiguous sexual behavior.

The sexuality of leaders.

Are efficient organizations feminine?.

Efficient organizations with no heroic leader.

6. Don Quixote and the virtue of arbitrary commitment.

A strange novel.

Don Quixote and reality.

Primary implications for leadership.

Don Quixote's vision of life.

Other lessons for leaders from Don Quixote.

Great visions, great actions, and great expectations.

Heroes to protect us from our own irrelevance.

The stuff that dreams are made of.

The pleasures of the process.

7. Plumbers and poets.

What do leaders really do?.

Appendix 1: INTELLIGENCE VERSUS REASON, an overview of James March's work.

Miseries of Reason.

The limitations of rationality or the critique of pure reason.

The application of suitable procedures or the critique of practical reason.

Thwarted learning or the critique of dialectic reason.

The technology of foolishness or the critique of immediate reason.

Splendors of Reason.

The charms of orthodoxy.

The rigorous and efficient use of reason.

Systemic reason or the quest for intelligence.

Redemption through enthusiasm.

The collective need for individual gambles.

How to make the challenge of exploration attractive.

Beyond rationality: poetry, intuition, and enthusiasm.

Institutions are not based on haggling alone.

Insignificant actions.

Optimism without hope.

Mundane organizations and gardening.

Appendix 1: Intelligence Versus Reason: An Overview of James March's Work.

Appendix 2: Mundane Organizations and Heroic Leaders.


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