The Versatile Leader: Make the Most of Your Strengths Without Overdoing It / Edition 1

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Overview

Praise for The Versatile Leader

"Bob Kaplan transforms ancient wisdom of 'know thyself' and 'nothing in excess' into practical tools to help modern leaders increase their versatility and effectiveness."
—Wendell Weeks, CEO, Corning, Inc.

"Bob Kaplan is one of the true professionals in this field. When I work with him on this subject matter I have a sense of calm because he delivers practical solutions to thorny problems. This books affirms his deep expertise. A must read for executives and HR professionals."
—Sandy Ogg, chief human resources officer, Unilever

"Bob Kaplan's book, The Versatile Leader, offers a valuable mapping of the terrain of outstanding leadership, and useful roadmap for how to get there."
—Daniel Goleman, author, Emotional Intelligence

"Bob Kaplan's notion of lopsidedness: just the word is so clear. Managers will quickly understand how to apply it to themselves. It's about balancing strengths—when to turn the dial up on something you're good at and when to dial it down when it's not needed. This concept, with the versatility index, is the next chapter in understanding your impact on others."
—Maureen Nash, director of learning & organizational development, TYCO Engineered Products & Service

"First, read this book—a compelling, how-to guide that can help every leader, no matter how seasoned, improve his or her game. Blending solid research, vivid case studies, and deep executive coaching experience, Kaplan and Kaiser have surfaced fresh insights into becoming a more versatile leader through calibrating strengths and minding gaps."
—John Alexander, president, Center for Creative Leadership

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"thought Leaders" webcast hour long interview (HR.com webcast, July 17, 2006)

When it comes to strengths, can managers have too much of a good thing? Yes, according to leadership consultants Kaplan and Kaiser (partners with Kaplan DeVries, Inc.), who posit that "overdoing" one's strengths can lead to ineffectiveness. After suggesting that other management assessment scales do not measure such excesses, the authors describe their Leadership Versatility Index (LVI(tm)), a "360-degree tool" designed to identify whether a leader is forceful or enabling, too strategic or too operational. When leadership is skewed to either end of these scales, it becomes lopsided: overenabling leaders may be too quick to avoid conflict; those who focus exclusively on operations may develop tunnel vision. In three sections, the authors describe the importance of moderating strengths, discuss the leadership dualities described above, and suggest ways to "throttle back" or "rev up" strengths as needed. The book is engagingly written and provides case studies, charts, and highlights at the end of each chapter, but it feels more like an extended and sometimes redundant advertisement for their LVI(tm) (described more fully in the appendix) than a standalone manual for improvement. Recommended for larger public or business libraries only.
—Sarah Statz Cords, Madison P.L., WI (Library Journal, June 15, 2006)

"This terrific new book…" (GovLeaders.org, May 17, 2006)

Library Journal
When it comes to strengths, can managers have too much of a good thing? Yes, according to leadership consultants Kaplan and Kaiser (partners with Kaplan DeVries, Inc.), who posit that "overdoing" one's strengths can lead to ineffectiveness. After suggesting that other management assessment scales do not measure such excesses, the authors describe their Leadership Versatility Index (LVI ), a "360-degree tool" designed to identify whether a leader is forceful or enabling, too strategic or too operational. When leadership is skewed to either end of these scales, it becomes lopsided: overenabling leaders may be too quick to avoid conflict; those who focus exclusively on operations may develop tunnel vision. In three sections, the authors describe the importance of moderating strengths, discuss the leadership dualities described above, and suggest ways to "throttle back" or "rev up" strengths as needed. The book is engagingly written and provides case studies, charts, and highlights at the end of each chapter, but it feels more like an extended and sometimes redundant advertisement for their LVI (described more fully in the appendix) than a standalone manual for improvement. Recommended for larger public or business libraries only. Sarah Statz Cords, Madison P.L., WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The Leadership Balancing Act
Do you easily see the big picture and drive new initiatives in your organization? Or do you have a tendency to center on daily routines and short-term goals? Do you often come up with solutions, ensuring your staff sees these ideas through? Or do you feel your staff should come up with solutions, exercising their own autonomy?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but how you answer can clue you into your own strengths as a leader—as well as your deficits, according to Bob Kaplan, author of The Versatile Leader. Just as we favor our right or left hand over the other, we also use our strengths and gravitate toward certain styles of leadership.

However, overemphasizing our strengths often indicate we are overcompensating for a shortcoming, these business consultants explain. As an example, Kaplan writes about a high-energy, take-charge leader who knows the business and gets results. Constantly worried about achieving outcomes, she also has a tendency to overdo it. She often takes on too much of her staff’s work and doesn’t allow them to just run with it.

Thus, this manager’s natural strength to take charge, which most likely brought her to this leadership position in the first place, comes at the expense of her staff’s autonomy. While her ability to assume responsibility is valuable, she could be even more effective by balancing her forceful leadership with enabling leadership, two important leadership qualities that Kaplan spends time explaining.

Forceful and Enabling Leadership
While both forceful leadership and versatile leadership are qualities that provide effective direction, a good leader knows when to take the reins and also when to allow her employees to do so.

Enabling leadership allows you to empower your employees, delegate and involve your staff in decisions, Kaplan says. Leaders who enable have the ability to listen and provide their staff growth to influence and contribute to the organization.

On the other hand, forceful leadership requires a resolve to make tough calls, to set high expectations. Forceful leadership garners respect.

Effective managers must balance these seemingly opposing traits. Kaplan retells the story of one manager who succinctly explains the equally important relationships between these leadership styles. This manager says, "Can you trust people and also go in with the knife when you really have to? You’ve got to have both because neither by itself will work in our business environment."

Strategic and Operational Leadership
Two other important leadership traits that often develop at the expense of the other are strategic leadership and operational leadership, says Kaplan.

Strategic leadership involves planning for the medium-to-long-term, whether it be planning for six sigma quality in a manufacturing process six months down the road or just improving customer service, Kaplan says.

On the opposite side, operational leadership is about getting results day-to-day. This requires centering on the details and keeping your employees on track on a daily basis. Many leadership strengths gravitate towards the more operational or strategic side. However, we must find a balance to see through initiatives, writes Kaplan.

Effective leaders need to communicate and execute long-term goals, while keeping track of progress and tackling deviations from the plan.

Measuring Too Much
So how do you know if you are using too much of one strength over another?

The recent shift for performance appraisals for managers, using methods such as the newer 360-degree feedback, has given management a deluge of feedback.

However, these assessment tools fall short in one area: They do not measure excess, Kaplan writes. Some assessment tools may use a frequency scale. Thus, a manager could receive the highest scores for categories, such as "takes stands" or "provides support." However, this kind of scale does not really explain whether the manager takes stands too often or provides too much support. In the same way, a scale that only bases on effectiveness would only show that a manager is not effective, but not why.

Thus, Kaplan and Rob Kaiser developed the Leadership Versatility Index (LVI®), which captures excess in leadership by providing a rating scale with a provision for too much. Kaplan and Kaiser have used the tool since 1994 in their consulting practice, Kaplan DeVries Inc.

Why We Like This Book
The Versatile Leader illustrates the relationships between strengths that can pave the way for weaknesses. It also offers meaningful strategies to "throttling back" excesses—as well as "revving up" their corresponding weaknesses. Balancing opposing leadership traits can help you stay on target day-to-day, while still being enterprising in long-term pursuits. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787979447
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/14/2006
  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership Series , #165
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Kaplan is a partner with Kaplan DeVries Inc., which provides leadership consulting to individual executives and management teams. Previously, Kaplan played a senior role at the Center for Creative Leadership. He has consulted to many top executives over the years, and is the author of numerous articles as well as the book, Beyond Ambition: How Driven Managers Can Lead Better and Live Better.

Rob Kaiser, also a partner with Kaplan DeVries Inc., is director of¿research and development. Kaiser also coaches individual leaders, specializing in helping high potentials prepare for senior leadership roles. Previously, he served on the Center for Creative Leadership's research staff.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Preface: Oversights and Insights.

Part I: A Perspective on Leadership Assessment.
There is a disconnect between what is generally known about leadership and the way leaders are assessed in most organizations. The first part of the book identifies these oversights and recommends ways of correcting for them. The first part, largely descriptive, lays out the book’s foundation.

1. Think Volume Control: Don’t Overuse Your Strengths.

2. “Mirror, Mirror . . .”: Look for Excess Too.

3. Know Your Own Strength.

4. The Impact of Mind-Set: Learning the Inner Game of Leadership.

Part II: Two Major Oppositions in Leadership.
Of all the oppositions, dichotomies, polarities or dualities in leadership, two stand out as arguably the most important to a leader’s effectiveness. They are: (1) forceful and enabling leadership, and (2) strategic and operational leadership.

5. Forceful and Enabling Leadership: The Power of Both.

6. Strategic and Operational Leadership: The Power of Both.

Part III: Prescriptions for Development.
The third part offers ways to correct overdoing it, underdoing it, and the combination of both, lopsidedness. All three chapters describe the outer/behavioral work of development and the inner/personal work of development.The book concludes with an elaboration of an ideal of versatility, which if not a destination that most leaders will reach can nevertheless serve as a direction for their development.

7. Throttling Back.

8. Revving Up.

9. Adjusting Both Sides.

10. The Multi-Versatile Leader.

Appendix.

Notes.

Index.

About the Authors.

About the (patented) Leadership Versatility Index.

Pfeiffer Publications Guide.

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