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The Powers to Lead [Hardcover]

Joseph S. Nye
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Book Description

March 17 2008
What qualities make a leader succeed in business or politics? In an era when the information revolution has dramatically changed the playing field, when old organizational hierarchies have given way to fluid networks of contacts, and when mistrust of leaders is on the rise, our ideas about leadership are clearly due for redefinition. With The Powers to Lead, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. offers a sweeping look at the nature of leadership in today's world, in an illuminating blend of history, business case studies, psychological research, and more. As he observes, many now believe that the more authoritarian and coercive forms of leadership - the hard power approaches of earlier military-industrial eras - have been largely supplanted in postindustrial societies by soft power approaches that seek to attract, inspire, and persuade rather than dictate. Nye argues, however, that the most effective leaders are actually those who combine hard and soft power skills in proportions that vary with different situations. He calls this smart power. Drawing examples from the careers of leaders as disparate as Gandhi, Churchill, Lee Iacocca, and George W. Bush, Nye uses the concept of smart power to shed light on such topics as leadership types and skills, the needs and demands of followers, and the nature of good and bad leadership in terms of both ethics and effectiveness. In one particularly instructive chapter, he looks in depth at contextual intelligence - the ability to understand changing environments, capitalize on trends, and use the flow of events to implement strategies. Thoroughly grounded in the real world, rich in both analysis and anecdote, The Powers to Lead is sure to become a modern classic, a concise and lucid work applicable to every field, from small businesses and nonprofit organizations to nations on the world stage.

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From Publishers Weekly

Leadership gurus since Machiavelli have argued over whether a leader should be loved or feared. In this evenhanded primer, Nye, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and soft power theorist, takes a resolute stand in between the two sides. Modern leadership, he contends, requires smart power, a judicious situational balance of hard power (getting people to do what you want, with carrots, sticks and bullying) and soft power (getting people to want what you want, with inspiration, charisma and propaganda). Nye embeds his argument in a lucid, if somewhat dry, survey of leadership studies, touching on everything from bonobo behavior to Freudian psychology, and illustrates it with references to noted leaders like former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Lincoln, Hitler and Subcomandante Marcos. (George Bush's presidency provides a recurring object lesson in bad leadership.) The author takes a skeptical, down-to-earth view of leadership fads and hype. But he can't quite break free of mystical notions like vision or vague buzz concepts like contextual intelligence (a head-scratcher that boils down to judgment and wisdom); his smart power formula is therefore more truism than concrete guide to action. Nye's is a useful introduction to the theory, but not the practice, of leadership. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Finally, a book that analyzes what leadership really means and how it relates to power. It will be invaluable for both political and business leaders alike. Nye developed the concept of hard and soft power, and now he shows how the best leaders use both in a smart way."--Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe, and President, the Aspen Institute

"The Powers to Lead is an outstanding primer on leadership and all its dimensions. Nye cuts through the many bromides surrounding the subject to present a sharp, gracefully written introduction to leadership that will benefit anyone from Washington to Wall Street."--General Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. National Security Advisor

"Nye has written better and more creatively on the importance of soft power as a political and diplomatic weapon than anyone else. Now he brings this knowledge and all his governmental and academic experience to bear on the oldest question in politics-how do leaders emerge and what distinguishes the good ones from the bad? There couldn't be a better primer for a presidential election year, in which all of us, whether or not we are American citizens, have such a big stake."--Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University

"This book will change not only the way leaders think about how they themselves should use power-but also how they can respond more creatively and effectively to others' power moves. This book will-and should-find a permanent place on the bookshelves of academics and practitioners alike."--Roderick M. Kramer, William R. Kimball Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business

"This book represents an important intellectual odyssey. Nye has long been acclaimed as one of the world's foremost thinkers about international affairs, helping us understand, for example, the differences between soft and hard power. Now, to our great good fortune, he has turned his mind to the vexing questions of how power relates to leadership. The result is a conceptual tour de force-one of the best works on leadership since James MacGregor Burns wrote his breakthrough book three decades ago. What a splendid journey!"--David Gergen, Professor of Public Service and Director, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

"A lucid...survey of leadership studies, touching on everything from bonobo behavior to Freudian psychology... with references to noted leaders like former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Lincoln, Hitler and Subcomandante Marcos."--Publishers Weekly

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By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The last time I checked, Amazon offers more than 56,000 books on subject of leadership in business. So, what does Joseph Nye offer in this book that makes a significant, indeed unique contribution to our understanding of why some leaders are so successful and many others aren't? Responding to that is the focus of the remarks that follow in this review.

In Nye's opinion, insufficient attention has been paid to "the questions of power and leadership in a context broader than that of modern organizations." He goes on to assert that effective leadership requires "a mixture [and balance] of soft and hard power skills that I call [begin italics] smart power [end italics]. The proportions differ with contexts." To Nye, a leader can be - but need not be only a single -- individual that "helps a group create and achieve shared goals." Moreover, a leader is not only "who you are but what you do" and what a leader does frequently is determined by the given circumstances. If "context is more important than traits," the most effective leaders are those who help to achieve goals in (to borrow a phrase from Robert Bolt) "all seasons." Nye therefore views leadership as a process with three key components: leaders, followers, and context.

With regard to "soft" and "hard" power skills, they can be learned and they can be mastered. They enable a leader to respond most effectively to a given situation. "Soft power is not merely the same as influence, though it is one source of influence. After all, influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments. Nor is soft power just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it. It is also the ability to entice and attract. Attraction often leads to acquiescence.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Mix of Scholarship & Pragmatism Feb. 26 2008
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anything by Joe Nye stops my work and receives my undivided attention. This is an absolute gem of a book, a mix of world-class scholarship and world-class pragmatism. It goes to the top of my leadership list on Amazon.

The book opens with the observation that two thirds of US citizens believe their is a leadership crisis. The intellectual center of the book is its focus on "smart power" defined as a balanced mix of soft and hard power that is firmly grounded in "Contextual IQ," a term credited to Mayo and Nohria of Harvard.

The author defines leaders as those who help a group create and achieve goals. He states that leadership is an art, not a science. I especially liked the early phases, "good contextual intelligence broadens the bandwidth of leaders." He likens the relation of leaders and the led to surfers and the wave--can ride it but cannot move it this way and that.

Soft power, his signal contribution to the global dialog on international relations, is concisely defined as att5ractive power, yielding the power to ask instead of compell. He cites McGregor Burns in communicating that bullys who humiliate and intimidate are counter-productive, that "power-wielders are not leaders."

There is a fine review of leadership styles, attributes, and a reference to female leadership rising (I have long said that women make better intelligence analysts because they have smaller egos and a great deal more emphathy and intuition). He provides a matrix for evaluationg inter effectivenesss and ethics in relation to goals, means, and consequences.

I was struck the emphasis on emotional intelligence and the needed ability to rapidly evaluate loyalty networks that might not be immediately obvious. He distinguishes between public politics and private politics.

The book concludes with a really extra-special and lengthy disucssion of leadership ethics and morality. The last two pages prior to top-notch notes and bibliographies are 12 take-aways on leadership (he had the wit to avoid making them the 12 commandments) consisting of a fragment that I list below, and explicative annotation that I do not--the book is worthy of buying for these two pages and the moral-ethical conclusion alone, but certainly this is an important book that should be read any anyone seeking to lead others.

1. Good leadership matters
2. Leadership can be learned.
3. Leaders help create and achieve group goals.
4. Smart leaders need both soft and hard power skills.
5. Leaders depend on and are partly shaped by followers.
6. Appropriate style depends on context.
7. Consultative style costs time, but has three major benefits.
8. Leaders need both managerial and organizational skills.
9. Leadership for crisis conditions requires advanced preparations, emotional maturity, and the ability to distinguish between operational, analytical, and political contexts.
10. Information revolution is shifting context of postmodern organizations from command to co-optive style.
11. Reality testing, constant information seeking, and adjusting to change are essential but (buy the book).
12. Ethical leaders use consciences, common moral rules, and professional standards, but conflicting values can create "dirty hands."

I have just two nits with this book, neither of which is a buy-stopper:

A. On page 94 there is an annoyingly facile and superficial reference to the 9-11 commission citing cultural dissonance as one reason the FBI and CIA did not share information. As one who has both read and written extensively on this topic, not only have we all identified numerous examples of internal failures (e.g. the FBI rejected two walk-ins, one in Newark and one in Orlando, prior to the event; CIA sent line-crossers in and conclusively established there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction, but George Tenet parked his integrity on the same shelf Colin Powell used, and let the White House lie 935 times to the public and Congress). I have an edited book scheduled on Cultural Intelligence for 2009, this is an important topic, and merits better treatment from the author.

B. This book could usefully be expanded, or followed by another book, to integrate the books I list below, and the world-changing conditions they represent.
The leadership of civilization building: Administrative and civilization theory, symbolic dialogue, and citizen skills for the 21st century
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition
Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World
One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization
The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization
The Knowledge Executive
The Collaborative Leadership Fieldbook
Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
Five Minds for the Future
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

Having said that, I consider this to be one of the author's top three immediately current and relevant books, and relatively priceless if we can get "Mr. Perfect" to read it (more than once), along with the author's two recent works, Understanding International Conflicts (6th Edition); and The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The skills effective and ethical leaders need to attract followers and achieve a group's objectives July 28 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The last time I checked, Amazon offers more than 56,000 books on subject of leadership in business. So, what does Joseph Nye offer in this book that makes a significant, indeed unique contribution to our understanding of why some leaders are so successful and many others aren't? Responding to that is the focus of the remarks that follow in this review.

In Nye's opinion, insufficient attention has been paid to "the questions of power and leadership in a context broader than that of modern organizations." He goes on to assert that effective leadership requires "a mixture [and balance] of soft and hard power skills that I call [begin italics] smart power [end italics]. The proportions differ with contexts." To Nye, a leader can be - but need not be only a single -- individual that "helps a group create and achieve shared goals." Moreover, a leader is not only "who you are but what you do" and what a leader does frequently is determined by the given circumstances. If "context is more important than traits," the most effective leaders are those who help to achieve goals in (to borrow a phrase from Robert Bolt) "all seasons." Nye therefore views leadership as a process with three key components: leaders, followers, and context.

With regard to "soft" and "hard" power skills, they can be learned and they can be mastered. They enable a leader to respond most effectively to a given situation. "Soft power is not merely the same as influence, though it is one source of influence. After all, influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments. Nor is soft power just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it. It is also the ability to entice and attract. Attraction often leads to acquiescence. In behavioral terms, soft power is attractive power. In terms of resources, soft power resources are assets - tangible and intangible - that produce such attraction." Nye acknowledges that leaders also rely on "hard power" in certain situations to help achieve the given objectives with threats, intimidation, and perhaps even punishment. "Hard and soft power sometimes reinforce and sometimes interfere with each other." In this context, I recalled numerous situations in films and television shows when the "good cop, bad cop" strategy was used to obtain information.

"Almost every leader needs a certain degree of soft power" and a leader and a tyrant are polar opposites. Neither soft nor hard power is either good or bad, per se, nor is one always better than the other. To repeat, the ability to combine hard power and soft power into an effective strategy is "smart power." As Nye explains, "Leadership, like power, is a relationship, and followers also have power both to resist and to lead. Followers empower leaders as well as vice versa." There are no leaders without followers but, that said, "the power of leaders depends on the followers' objectives that are embedded in their culture." These are among Nye's core concepts and they will encourage those who read his book to re-consider (if not revise) their own ideas about leaders, followers, and contexts.

After I read Nye's book, I re-read two written by Howard Gardner, Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity as Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi and Leading Minds in which Gardner discusses Margaret Mead, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., George C. Marshall, Pope John XXIII, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., Margaret Thatcher, Jean Monnet, and Mahatma Gandhi. All but Gandhi among those in the first volume are generally viewed only as thought leaders, not as social or political activists as are the subjects in the second volume. Their relationships with followers are also quite different. What can be said of all the leaders whom Gardner discusses is that each mastered both hard and soft skills but applied them in quite different contexts to achieve quite different objectives.

I am grateful, to Joseph Nye for his thought-provoking, at times counterintuitive perspectives on leaders, followers, and contexts. As a result, I have not only reconsidered my own opinions about those components in the power relationship, I have also reconsidered my perspectives on leaders throughout history, notably Julius Caesar, Joan of Ark, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry Truman.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leading With Smart Power April 9 2010
By Pat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Leadership through persuasion and influence is the path favoured by leaders who use soft power to manage. A long-standing advocate of soft power, Joseph Nye, points out, in The Powers To Lead, that soft power is just one way to manage. The book recommends the use of smart power.
Success is obtained with smart power by combining hard and soft power skills in varying proportions, depending on the situation. Leadership with soft power transforms group members through the use of attraction, inspiration, persuasion, and charisma.
Hard power was used more by managers in prior eras of the industrial age. These leaders wanted to dominate their followers. They got what they wanted through coercion, bullying, and appealing to their opponents' tangible interests with rewards that had conditions attached.
Leaders who are better at using smart power have contextual intelligence. They know when to use soft or hard power to inspire their followers since they are aware of the distribution of power in their organization, its cultural values, and changes in their followers needs. Hard power is more appropriate when there is a need to appeal to tangible interests; whereas, soft power is effective when a leader can appeal to higher order values and noble purposes.
For example, when bargaining over wages, soft power is a good route to follow in a political nonprofit group where people work due to their own personal values. On the other hand, hard power bargaining, where tangible rewards are doled out, is likely necessary in a corporate for-profit setting where workers perceive that the owner is rich.
There are many examples in The Powers To Lead that are based on the author's experiences and observations in the public sector and international politics. The author, Joseph Nye, has experience as a professor, and former dean, of Harvard's School of Government, and as a senior official in two US presidential administrations.
Nye expands the scope of The Powers To Lead, so that it encompasses the use of smart power by all leaders, by including examples from the private sector. The examples from the private sector point to the need for increasing the use of soft power in business. One CEO in information technology notes that he would be kicked off the island if he used the hard power methods of management like those of Jack Welch of GE fame. Joseph Nye points out that only half the managers who were trained in hard power systems, like that at GE, went on to be successful leaders elsewhere. Nye also discusses managers who transfer between the public and private sectors and how some of them continue to be successful in their new endeavours.
The closing chapter of The Powers To Lead examines the morality of leaders who use smart power. Joseph Nye favours the use of soft power in the contemporary times since he feels that soft power is the best path to choose in a world which has a highly educated workforce, the spreading of democratic principles, and followers who need to perceive that they are making their own decisions. On the other hand, Nye feels it is morally right for a leader to use hard power when necessary.
Many other reviewers are also pleased to see The Powers To Lead written by a world class scholar, Joseph Nye. The book adds to our knowledge about leadership and brings together thinking from the public and private sectors. Some reviewers would like the book to include a more concrete action plan for leaders. As it is, political junkies can probably find Nye's opinions about their heroes. All reviewers agree that The Powers To Lead is an excellent, concise, contemporary treatise on the appropriate use of power by leaders.
4.0 out of 5 stars Many Centuries earlier.... March 29 2009
By Mike Weislik - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I feel it worthy to state that humans have been contemplating leadership techniques for centuries. In Joseph Nye Jr.'s excellent book, "The Powers to Lead" (Oxford University Press, New York, 2008, pg.11) he states, "Part of ancient Chinese wisdom is represented by Sun-Tzu, who wrote The Art of Warfare six centuries before the Christian era and concluded that the highest excellence is never having to fight because the commencement of battle signifies a political failure." And (pg. 21) "We can think of leadership as a process with three key components: leaders, followers, and contexts." Both of these are powerful statements but represent early teachings of great masters. The I Ching includes the martial within the cultural, and in classical Chinese political ideology, military strategy was a subordinate branch of social strategy. Thus context was of great interest to leaders of that age. Although The Art of Warfare states in the opening chapter: "The Way means inducing the people to have the same aim as the leadership, so that they will share death and share life, without fear of danger" (Strategy Assessments), this was not necessarily through coercion, because many of the qualities needed for crisis management were also qualities needed for ordinary management. A complete education in China was believed to encompass both cultural and martial arts. A person might be both a military and civilian leader, simultaneously or at different times. In Chinese, this was called the combination of wen and wu. Mr. Nye does a compelling job of bringing the concepts of hard, soft, smart power and contextual intelligence into recent centuries, but reading the essays of great statesman and warriors like Zhuge Liang or Liu Ji (second century B.C.E) will transport you to a time when the powers to lead exercised keen judgment and applied leadership styles as needed to fit the situation at hand. Try also reading the Masters of Huainan for a unified science of life and leadership. Thanks Mr. Nye for bringing these concepts forward in time.
4.0 out of 5 stars Apt Analysis Sept. 15 2008
By D. Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Joseph Nye's newest book, The Powers to Lead, is as crucial to the application of leadership in the twenty-first century as an understanding of the technical and social evolution of the last ten years is to its success. This compound simile is more than a poignant summary of his work; it's a framing of the very research question Nye articulates as his motives for writing it: What is required of leaders within the context of our new information-based and network-oriented society?
Using history as relevant parameters, his personal and professional experiences as an intuitive guide, and the evolving realities of the day as an oracle to bet on, Nye submits that the era of paradigm leadership is over, and now is a time for leaders to recognize that the balance of "soft and hard power" has shifted toward the relations-fostering, personally empowering side of soft power; though, the key, in the end is to produce the right combination of the two, which he deems "smart power", for the optimal outcome to the situation at hand.
With the spread of information becoming so prevalent not only in society in general but in the workplace specifically, Nye conveys the role of a leader as no longer being the arbiter of that information but, instead, being the mediator of it, influencing its purpose and value. While some authors have tried--unsuccessfully--to articulate a similar message, their abstract and detached approach often overshadowing the virtue of their points and rue the day. Nye's method, however, of thoughtful and hyper-relevant examples satiates the common reader's need for correlation and illustration. Nye's constant analytical inclusions of both historical and contemporary figures is neither haphazard nor frivolous; perfectly placed within the context of his discussion, he knows that using these specific examples will allow him to not only further define the concept at hand but also draw in years of history to truly accentuate his point.
As he encourages aspiring leaders to do when refining their own approaches, he does in methodologically evaluating the balance of soft and hard power: observe what has worked and use it; avoid past failures. Nye's many references to various points within today's comprehensive literature on leadership reflects this point well--he acknowledges these are points that will foster the skills necessary to thrive under the conditions of the twenty-first century.
The organization of The Powers to Lead is what differentiates it from other volumes on leadership. Nye's constant and clear demarcation between the leader, his style, and his objectives--what I would consider the true "leadership triad"--ensures the reader will never miss the point at hand. Leadership, as he would advance, must be understood, and likewise employed, within the context of the objective and the person, and the chronology of his piece is designed to flow from one context to the next to subliminally substantiate his claim. In doing so, Nye is constantly building the repertoire necessary to reach the final goal: striking the balance between soft and hard power within the context of the situation.
While still articulating definition between distinctive forms of leadership, Nye's message is not lost among the jargon and rhetoric that plague so many other authors of the topic. The reason is found in his style. He is both poignant and persuasive. Masterfully crafting a very logical chain of progression, he lays a proven record of skill sets, denotes their successful and unsuccessful employment throughout history, and articulates how their use in the context of today's society will prove to be effective in discerning the power balance. Leadership is a highly personal matter for many, and by not speaking at, but rather with, the reader, Nye is able to accomplish the two major goals of any writer: captivate and persuade.
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