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Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work [Paperback]

David Rock
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 4 2007

Improving the performance of your employees involves one of the hardest challenges in the known universe: changing the way they think. In constant demand as a coach, speaker, and consultant to companies around the world, David Rock has proven that the secret to leading people (and living and working with them) is found in the space between their ears. "If people are being paid to think," he writes, "isn't it time the business world found out what the thing doing the work, the brain, is all about?" Supported by the latest groundbreaking research, Quiet Leadership provides a brain-based approach that will help busy leaders, executives, and managers improve their own and their colleagues' performance. Rock offers a practical, six-step guide to making permanent workplace performance change by unleashing higher productivity, new levels of morale, and greater job satisfaction.

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Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work + Your Brain At Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long + Coaching with the Brain in Mind: Foundations for Practice
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From Publishers Weekly

A leader's job "should be to help people make their own connections," Rock asserts—a commonsense message he overcomplicates in this guide for executives and managers who want to improve employee performance. Rock, CEO of Results Coaching System, strives to legitimize his methodology with neuroscience, acronyms and catchphrases and gratuitous, Powerpointesque illustrations. But his writing style conflicts with his advice—keep it succinct and focused. Promising that his approach "saves time and creates energy," he details his six steps: "Think About Thinking" (let people think things through without telling them what to do, while remaining "solutions-focused"); "Listen for Potential" (be a sounding board for employees); "Speak with Intent" (clarify and streamline conversation); "Dance Toward Insight" (communicate in ways that promote other people's insights); "CREATE New Thinking" (which stands for Current Reality, Explore Alternatives and Tap Their Energy, an acronym about "helping people turn their insights into habits"); and, finally, "Follow Up" to ensure ongoing improved performance. Rock also explains how to apply the steps to problem solving, decision making and giving feedback. Perhaps Rock conveys his strategies more effectively in a seminar setting, but for busy executives, this guide (after Personal Best) is more likely to generate frustration than an " 'aha' moment." (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This highly practical guide includes exercises for each major concept, giving readers a chance to practice what they’ve learned.” (Library Journal)

“Quiet Leadership will help you improve other people’s thinking, which is the best place to begin improving other people’s performance.” (Marshall Goldsmith, founder of Marshall Goldsmith Partners; named one of the 50 greatest thinkers who have impacted the field of management by the American Management Association.)

“Essential reading for any leader who has ever wondered ‘Why don’t people do what I tell them to do?.’” (Elisa Mallis, Human Performance Consultant, Accenture, London)

A quick and useful guide to a softer management style that draws on recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience (Continental Magazine)

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First Sentence
Ten years ago I became fascinated by the sealed magic box that is the seat of our thinking, our choices, and our selves. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for any thoughtful leader June 30 2009
This is one of those books I borrowed from the library and now want to buy because I really want to implement his approach into the way that I interact as a leader and a coach. David Rock argues very persuasively that we will much more effectively impact the performance of others by improving the way that their brains process information than by telling them the solution. His approach reflects state of the art understanding in the way that our brains are hardwired to approach problems and the strategies that are needed if we are to alter that hardwiring. Anyone who is suspicious that telling others our solutions to their problems is suboptimal will enjoy and profit from a careful consideration of David Rock's insights.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By C. Lyon
If you choose to be a successful change agent this model provides all the tools necessary. I don't believe that you need anything else but time, opportunity and this book to put the model into practice.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
189 of 231 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pseudoscientific leadership mumbo-jumbo June 23 2006
By A management reader - Published on Amazon.com
I purchased this book after receiving a series of promotional emails, and I had high expectations due to the level of name-dropping and implied endorsements. The book was promoted as giving a scientific brain-based explanation of leadership. I am a management and leadership professor and consultant who has researched and taught leadership theory, philosophy and practice in leading US and European universities for many years.

Unfortunately I found this was this is yet another pseudoscientific book on management and leadership offering over-simplified "magic bullet" six-step solutions, although one with an interesting spin, in that it uses neuroscientific research as a means of justifying and legitimizing the author's leadership development programs.

Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence and take great pleasure in pointing out the consistency of their theories with past research and well-known facts.

Pseudoscientists do not recognize that such consistency is, in fact, not proof of anything at all, and they use previous scientific work as a means of legitimizing or justifying their own argument or products (for a detailed discussion of this issue see the excellent book Management Mumbo-Jumbo: A Skeptics' Dictionary - the UK amazon web site has a recorded sound clip well worth hearing).

Pseudoscientific works are typified by at least five key characteristics:

1) Lack of theoretical clarity leading to the drawing of conclusions that are not justified;
2) Inappropriate use of scientific empirical studies in support of the argument;
3) Promotion of the author as a guru with special or unique knowledge;
4) The author's lack of formal education or training in the claimed area of expertise; and
5) The works tend to be self-refuting - the works contradict themselves in either content or style.

This book demonstrates all five characteristics. Rock demonstrates his lack of rigorous thought in the way he repeatedly makes assertions that go far beyond the conclusions drawn by the original authors of the original scientific research.

For example on page 24 he mentions how dendrites (minuscule pieces of brain tissue) on a glass slide in a laboratory will grow a small amount after being stimulated in the laboratory. He then suggests that the reader try to open a car door with their non-dominant hand for a week (a simple motor-skill - door opening) to see how easy it is to make motor-skill changes, and then states that it is easy to change complex leadership behaviours with his six-step method which is based (he claims) on neuroscience.

The form of his argument is ... 1, dendrites can be enlarged on slides in laboratories and ... 2, you can learn to open doors with the other hand, and (because of this) ... 3, it is easy to purposefully grow new neural connections and create new habits. Thus, he (erroneously) concludes (and repeatedly asserts) that leadership styles and organizational cultures (highly complex and highly contextualised and systemic behaviors) are easy to change using his particular six-step coaching method, and that therefore neuroscience provides a solid theoretical framework for the "Quiet Leadership" model.

Of course this is a seriously flawed and confused argument, and one which would be rejected in any first year undergraduate philosophy essay. This is because one premise does not lead to the next, and the conclusion is simply not supported by the premises. This kind of over-simplistic and erroneous reasoning, and inappropriate use of research is repeated throughout the book and this, as other reviewers have noted, makes the book confusing to read, frequently presenting common-sense ideas in an overcomplicated "scientific" fashion: pseudoscience.

The astute reader will also be quietly amused by the stark contrast between the espoused values of the supposed "quiet leader" (humble and self-effacing) and the author's own Alpha-male chest-thumping writing style - good salesmanship - but poor "Quiet Leadership" modelling. On one page alone I counted 12 "I did ... I said ... I've consulted to such-and-such a high-profile corporation" type statements, and in some places the book seems to be far more about the author himself than the topic of leadership or leading others!

More worrying is the fact that nowhere in the book, despite many extravagant claims, did I find any real experimental or solid research support for the notion that "Quiet Leadership" was in fact superior to other models of leadership or even effective. Given that this book is promoting a new leadership model, to be taken seriously the reader would reasonably expect to have seen in-depth comparisons between "Quiet Leadership", and more established models of leadership, for example, Bass and Avilio's Transformational Leadership Model, which is one of the well-known and most researched models of leadership in the serious leadership literature.

I'm not sure if I'm cynical or if others are being gullible, or if they are simply uninformed about both leadership and neuroscience - but none of this book seems to be "groundbreaking code-breaking" "thought-leadership" or the "road to self-actualisation", just another example of using management mumbo-jumbo with a "scientific" label to legitimize and sell "magic bullet" leadership development products.

Neuroscience may well (eventually) in time move beyond functional analysis of neurological brain processes and offer meaningful insights into real-world leadership behaviors and organisational change, but this book does not, as claimed, give a solid brain-based explanation of leadership nor a solid theoretical basis for leadership coaching.

Buyer beware the "BS"!!!

A management reader2
49 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Had promise, but... Sept. 1 2006
By Frank Hulton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Quiet Leadership - David Rock

I bought this book encouraged by some of the positive reviews it received, and by the promise of the title, Quiet Leadership. I have long felt that effective leadership can be accomplished in "quiet", humble, and non-demonstrative ways and I was looking forward to the author's insights and contributions toward this leadership approach. This book disappointed me.

Mr. Rock presents his leadership development approach as six steps. Well enough. But when you actually read through chapters describing the six steps, you soon realize that his approach is more like twenty or so steps as each basic step is further broken down into sub-steps and in some cases, "models". A powerful aspect of good books on leadership is to present ideas, even if they are already well-known principles, in a simple and/or motivating manner. This book does not do this. Mr. Rock's approach is tedious and unnecessarily complex, and I found it hard to maintain my focus while reading the individual chapters.

Mr. Rock supports his approach by findings in neuroscience. This impressed me as superfluous. For, example, I think most astute, aware individuals understand that people bring different experiences and points of view to a situation. Now, from reading Mr. Rock, I understand that is because people have different and unique neural "maps". Ok, what's special about the neuroscience's insight here? Neuroscience is undoubtedly a complex field and most likely still has a long way to go before we understand everything there is to know about the workings of the brain. The assuredness and precision of Mr Rock's "findings" just don't seem appropriate to this kind of science as applied to leadership.

I gave the book an overall, 3 rating for some good material on effective conversational styles captured in the chapters entitled, Speak with Intent, and Dance Toward Insight (two of the six steps). I could not be more generous with my rating because of the overall complexity and the less than compelling presentation of the author's insights.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Involve Them in the Conversation Nov. 7 2007
By Dennis DeWilde - Published on Amazon.com
When telling does not work, "Why not try asking questions?" might be another way to describe the "Quiet Leadership" approach advocated by training and coaching consultant David Rock in this book that describes his performance coaching methodology of leadership. Designed to get the other party to think, rather than react to your thinking, Rock presents his Six Steps to Transforming Performance as the six sigma of performance coaching. Others might describe the process as respecting the individual (looking for the positive and the possibilities) and using an active listening process to help them get clear on the issues, constraints, and possible solutions. However you say it, the thinking behind the coaching process is solid as a `Rock' and any leader interested in developing the potential of his/her people might pick-up some useful tips from reading this book.

Dennis DeWilde, author of
"The Performance Connection"
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Leading Edge of Leadership Jan. 24 2007
By William H. Seidman - Published on Amazon.com
Quiet Leadership is the best book I have read for tying the most recent advances in neuroscience to leadership behaviors, particularly coaching. Having worked with leadership and coaching for a long time, and just recently starting working with neuroscience, I am personally thrilled to see all of these tied together. I strongly believe that the use of neuroscience in all aspects of business will grow rapidly, so this is a very timely contribution. It is worth reading just for the first sections.

However, the coaching methodology of the Six Steps is too complex for me -- too many steps and substeps. These sections still have some value, particularly the ties to neuroscience, but I would recommend skimming those sections.
25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People are their brains... sort of June 17 2006
By Tom Carpenter - Published on Amazon.com
Finally, a book that acknowledged the human brain as it relates to leadership. When you want to lead someone, you are attempting to get them to think in a way that will cause/allow them to act as you want them to. This book reveals the most recent discoveries in neuroscience and applies them to the domain of leadership. What a find!

The book presents six steps to leading people and they are:

1) Think about Thinking

2) Listen for Potential

3) Speak with Intent

4) Dance Toward Insight

5) Create New Thinking

6) Follow Up

In the end, the most important thing I can say about this book is that it's different. If you're tired of buying and reading leadership books that are more of just the same, you really should consider this book. There is very little here you've ever seen before.
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