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How Great Leaders ThinkThe distinction between a great leader and one who suffers through a difficult, short tenure has much to do with how the person sees both the world and his or her organization. In How Great Leaders Think, Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal provide tales of successful leaders—including Lou Gerstner of IBM, Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks—to show how they brought new views to the organizations they led and were able to navigate the structure, people, politics, and culture of their companies. Great leaders use a variety of viewpoints, based on their personal histories, worldviews, and experiences, to see their organizations for what they really are and understand how they need to get to the next stage.

According to the authors:

  • Good leadership requires reframing. New leaders who step in with a narrow mind will not go far in their new roles. They need to be able to step back and see the organization from a variety of perspectives.
  • Adaptability is a common thread of great leaders. Executives who insist on their way or the highway, who do not adapt to the organization they are leading with all its quirks and cultural differences from places they have previously worked, will have short tenures.
  • The structure of an organization deserves significant attention. The social architecture of a business is a critical component and should be given its due.
  • Great leaders have self-awareness. Weak managers do not realize how they are perceived. They get caught in hypocrisy and believe no one is listening to them. If they were more aware of how they came across, they could adjust how they communicate and make more progress with those around them.
  • To be heard, leaders need to listen. By reaching out to employees and customers and hearing what they have to say, leaders can connect with the realities that are unique to the company and come up with helpful, practical recommendations.
  • Politics is not a bad thing. Building relationships and networking are critical activities for leaders who need to navigate their way around a company. They need allies to get projects done and to carry through strategies.
  • Employees look to their leaders for magic. Great leaders are able to tap into the core of the company culture and pull out surprises that appear like magic, although they actually are based on the leaders’ years of experience and well-crafted worldview.
  • Reframing takes practice. Leaders need to see the world they live in through various lenses, but that is something that takes time to learn and may require the help of others who can provide different perspectives.

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