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Sunday, May 10, 2009

This is the first of a series of posts based on my review of Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading ((Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

Of all the books I’ve read and reviewed on leadership, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading would be one of the top 10 books I’d recommend to any leader—from first line manager to CEO.
Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky serve on the faculty at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and have written Leadership on the Line.  The book proposes that leadership—adaptive leadership (transformative leadership) isn’t for sissies. It’s a full-contact sport (art/skill). When you lead people to change, they often have to give up something and experience a loss, such as routine, comfort, values, or beliefs. It’s not easy for those following a leader who demands they focus on the truth—often painful. Rather than face the pain, they try to eliminate that pain: The leader who introduced the pain!

On the other hand, the leader has to know when to apply the heat of change and when to release the pressure valve. People can only take so much disequilibrium. So this book presents what I would call a kind of seesaw approach to good leadership with the leader on one end, the issue (including those who have to deal with it like subordinates, peers, customers, etc.) on the other end…all kept in some sort of balance by the leader’s boss/superior (sometimes the CEO)—who modulates the dynamic change and rebalances the disequilibrium caused by adaptive leadership.

This week, I’ll be making some posts about this important book. NOTE: I have reviewed an article by Heifetz and Linsky in a recent series and will also be reviewing their newest book out this year….that’s how important I believe this stuff to be. KUDOS to Heifetz and Linsky.  

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