BOOKCASE Strategic and Suggestive

Effective Strategic Leadership
By: John Adair
Publisher: Pan
Price: $27.95

John Adair has written eight books in his effective leadership and management series. Effective Strategic Leadership is his latest. I haven’t read the others. Perhaps I should. Adair is compelling storyteller. In management book that’s not so common. But then, he doesn’t see it as simply another management book.

Adair is an authority on leadership development. He is currently visiting professor in leadership studies at the University of Exeter and an international consultant on the subject. Bona fides established, he argues and compellingly delivers his case for more strategic leaders.

“Today each of us has to be our own strategic leader. Leading the way – whether for an organisation or for yourself – is never easy. I hope this book equips you for the challenge and that you enjoy reading it too,” he offers. Well I did enjoy reading it.

Despite the fact this is one of his “effective management” series, Adair hopes it will “escape the fate of being classified as another management book”. I suspect not, but he makes good fist of turning it into more generally accessible read.

There is, as he says, material here for schools and universities as they “gradually wake up to the challenge of helping young people to prepare for working life”. There is also reading here for wider audience of individuals wanting to understand the history, context and relevance of leadership in today’s tough-to-comprehend world of conflicting priorities and perspectives.

Adair kicks out with four enlightening chapters on understanding strategic leadership, an exploration of the sources and fundamentals of strategic leadership.

“Words are sometimes like nuts: if you crack them open you discover the kernel of their meaning. Strategy is case in point.”

His explanation of the word and how we get strategy confused with adjoining words like tactics is embellished with wonderfully relevant historical and contemporary case studies and analogies. I have not read such an interesting explanation of the topic anywhere else before.

Part two explains what leaders have to do “to be effective” by focusing on five key themes: the first 100 days; building the top team; getting the strategy right; changing the organisation culture, and finding time for individuals.

Part three is, as Adair points out, wider in scope “since strategic leadership applies to us all”. He tackles strategic thinking in individuals’ lives and careers, examines what is important long-term and for relations with others and shows how to keep your “inner fires of enthusiasm burning”.

The idea that strategic leadership, leading your life, is universal concept and relevant to everyone is, he thinks, new. He’s right.

And to get the most from this book, widen your span of relevance and look for examples and case studies close to you. Adair argues that there is an underlying unity in strategic leadership and therefore individuals can draw lessons and insights from many personal sources in order to grow as strategic leaders.

He agrees that “you cannot teach leadership, it can only be learned”. But, he says, it takes continuous learning throughout your career – and life – if you are to become “one of the best”.

His parting thought on that subject is simply: “don’t give up”.

Values at Work
By: Michael Henderson & Dougal Thompson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: 34.99

Organisationally speaking, don’t confuse values with “the likes of morals, ethics and emotions, as well as totally ignoring the role beliefs play in the effective and successful creation of meaningful value sets”, warn the authors of this locally written book.

Henderson and Thompson, Kiwi consultants with an impressive list of clients, wrote Values at Work to “guide busy managers through the concepts and processes” necessary to develop “values-based organisation”. They have, by and large, succeeded.

They spend the first 50 odd pages of the book “putting values and business into context”. Then another 100 plus pages outlining step-by-step implementation procedure.

Terms like “values-based management” are sometimes greeted with scepticism. Why? Because the process is so often misunderstood and worse, mismanaged.

As they point out, organisations expend time and effort poetically articulating values which, when compared with “the day-to-day realities experienced by people within the business”, come up short.

“Companies invariably spend too much time crafting their values (statements), but nowhere near enough time on the equally important task of aligning their business activities with the values they’ve just recorded.”

A good how to do it.

The books for these reviews were supplied by Dymocks Atrium. Available from [email protected] Ph 0-9-379 9919, Fax 0-9-379 9555.

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