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Leadership is essential to collective human endeavor, from setting and accomplishing goals for a neighborhood block association, to running a Fortune 500 company, to mobilizing the energies of a nation. Political philosophers have focused largely on how to prevent leaders from abusing their power, yet little attention has been paid to what it actually feels like to hold power, how leaders go about their work, and how they relate to the people they lead. In Thinking about Leadership, Nannerl Keohane draws on her experience as the first woman president of Duke University and former president of Wellesley College, as well as her expertise as a leading political theorist, to deepen our understanding of what leaders do, how and why they do it, and the pitfalls and challenges they face.
Keohane engages readers in a series of questions that shed light on every facet of leadership. She considers the traits that make a good leader, including sound judgment, decisiveness, integrity, social skill, and intelligence; the role that gender plays in one's ability to attain and wield power; ethics and morality; the complex relationship between leaders and their followers; and the unique challenges of democratic leadership. Rich with lessons and insights from leaders and political thinkers down through the ages, including Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela, Thinking about Leadership is a must-read for current and future leaders, and for anyone concerned about our prospects for good governance.
"Books about management usually leave me cold. . . . Thinking about Leadership by Nannerl Keohane is better than many I've dipped into. It's sensible, and short, and captures two aspects of leadership that seem pretty fundamental. The first is its definition of leadership. . . . The second is her emphasis on the importance of judgment."—Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist blog
"[A] gentle, reflective book that examines the relevant literature, supports and refutes it with anecdotal evidence, and sifts everything through Keohane's own experiences as president of Wellesley College and Duke University. . . . She's not telling anyone how to be a leader; she's raising questions that ought to interest anyone interested in the role or the topic."—Sharon Shinn, BizEd Magazine
"Keohane's book is to be recommended, particularly if you are an academic thinking about becoming a leader."—Amanda Goodall, Times Higher Education
"Keohane understands as well that advice about the 'right balance between disparate qualities'—exhibiting warmth or distance; eliciting love or fear—isn't all that helpful because 'it does not come with instructions for knowing when to use one approach and when the other.' Leadership, Keohane reminds us, is as essential in a democracy as it is in a monarchy, oligarchy, or a dictatorship."—Glenn Altschuler, Huffington Post
"Keohane's exploration of the unique demands placed on all leaders, both men and women, in democracies is especially interesting. . . . Keohane's rich personal experiences and her deep engagement with political theory (informed by literature and the arts) therefore provide important insights into leadership."—Haig Patapan, Australian Review of Public Affairs
"The manner in which dilemmas connected with the theory of leadership are presented is noteworthy and thus this book ought to be read by those interested in this issue."—Maciej Hardifiski, Political Studies Review
CHAPTER ONE: What Is Leadership? 18
CHAPTER TWO: How and Why Do Followers Matter? 48
CHAPTER THREE: What Determines Who Becomes a Leader and Which Leaders Will Succeed? 83
CHAPTER FOUR: Does Gender Make a Difference? 121
CHAPTER FIVE: How Does Leadership Work in a Democracy? 155
CHAPTER SIX: How Do Character, Ethics, and Leadership Interact? 194