The Taboos of Leadership: The 10 Secrets No One Will Tell You about Leaders and What They Really Think

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Most experts on leadership would have us believe that successful leaders are superhuman beings who are humble servants, have hearts of gold, and are motivated by the needs of their employees and shareholders.

That's because no one's been telling the truth about leadership . . .

Most leaders who make it to the top possess characteristics that are all too human: they have politically incorrect attitudes, are conflicted, and play politics to get ...

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Overview

Most experts on leadership would have us believe that successful leaders are superhuman beings who are humble servants, have hearts of gold, and are motivated by the needs of their employees and shareholders.

That's because no one's been telling the truth about leadership . . .

Most leaders who make it to the top possess characteristics that are all too human: they have politically incorrect attitudes, are conflicted, and play politics to get their way. Written by leading management consultant Anthony F. Smith, The Taboos of Leadership reveals the rarely discussed realities of leadership—the secrets that leaders just cannot admit publicly for fear of losing power, self-respect, or even their jobs. This revelatory book will help both leaders and followers achieve real understanding and co-create a two-way street culture of openness, trust, and improved performance in their organizations.

The Taboos of Leadership discloses ten guarded secrets that leaders can't discuss, even with their closest constituents, including: charisma shouldn't make a difference . . . but it does; women make better leaders . . . when that's what they really want to do; blatant self-interest is dangerous . . . in followers, not leaders; thou shalt not play favorites with friends and family . . . except when it makes a lot of sense; and more.

Using real, in-the-trenches stories from Fortune 500 companies, Smith shows that once leaders and followers acknowledge the existence of a taboo in the workplace, they can then consider its positives and negatives. Leaders can determine if an existing taboo is hurting the organization or if it serves a useful purpose. If the taboo serves a useful purpose, they can consider ways to preserve it. If not, it should be pruned back and weeded out, allowing an organization and its leaders and followers to grow in a new way.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In this emperor-has-no-clothes exposé, Smith attempts to get into the heads of the powerful, reveal what goes on there and develop strategies for the inferiors who must cope with them. The managing director of the Leadership Research Institute, Smith dissects various leadership qualities-looking at heads of business, the military and politics, among others-as well as the way they're perceived by followers, employees and the general public. The innate hypocrisy of the human drive to power—"leadership is rooted in the urges of blatant self-interest"—creates a tension between leaders' public and private feelings; Smith posits that, though leaders' responsibility is to the team, they must protect their own power with "tough, hard, ruthless, and overtly political act[s]." This results, all too often, in "taboos" such as double standards, isolation and favoritism, all of which underlings find difficult, if not impossible, to address openly. The topics considered are many, including the difference charisma makes, the effect of gender, the successor-grooming game and the pursuit of a balanced lifestyle; the message, ultimately, is to speak up and look out.(May) (PublishersWeekly.com)

"... a useful call for leadership advocates to balance their natural optimism with realism." (Harvard Business Review, May 29, 2007)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787995829
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/20/2007
  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership Series , #213
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony F. Smith is co-founder and a managing director of Leadership Research Institute, recognized as one of the leading management consulting firms specializing in leadership development and assessment. An active writer and researcher whose articles have appeared in numerous publications, Smith was a contributor to the books The Leader of the Future and The Organization of the Future (from Jossey-Bass).

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Steven M. Bornstein.

Introduction.

PART ONE: Introducing the Taboos.

1 Taboos and Leadership.

2 Secret 1:We Know What Leadership Looks Like (But We Don’t Know What It Takes).

PART TWO: Taboos of Persuasion.

3 Secret 2: Charisma Shouldn’t Make a Difference (But It Does).

4 Secret 3: Real Leaders Don’t Play Politics (They Take It Very Seriously).

5 Secret 4:Women Make Better Leaders (When That’s What They Really Want to Do).

PART THREE: Taboos of Position.

6 Secret 5:The Double Standard Is for Cavemen (and the Corner Office).

7 Secret 6:Thou Shalt Not Play Favorites with Friends and Family (Except When It Makes a Lot of Sense).

8 Secret 7: A Leader’s Fundamental Duty Is to Groom a Successor (But It Hurts Like Hell).

PART FOUR: Taboos of the Person.

9 Secret 8: Leaders Need to Demonstrate Work-Life Balance (No Problem;Work Is Their Life).

10 Secret 9: Blatant Self-Interest Is Dangerous (in Followers, Not Leaders).

11 Secret 10: It’s Lonely at the Top (But Leaders Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way).

12 Our Taboos Are Exposed, So Now What?

References.

About the Author.

Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 5, 2010

    Very Useful

    I have given this book to several friends that are on the road to success and they have been very grateful. It covers a lot of realistic situations that occur in every day business and the difficult decisions people in charge have to make. The benefits of doing things the right way even if no one is on your side and truly gives insight to the employer's and employee's way of thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2007

    A reviewer

    Anthony Smith delivers a highly readable, relevant and important work on the shadow side of leadership. I have recommended this book to several of my senior executive coaching clients and it has helped them in a variety of ways, i.e. appropriately disclosing information, learning that they are not alone in their challenges. People lower down in the organization that I coach have also benefitted in gaining a clearer perspective on what leaders' lives are really like and are able to be more realistic in their expectations. Bringing these taboos to light benefits everyone and gives a much needed clearer picture of the darker side of leadership.

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