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Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas)
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The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment
The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment
by Todd Kashdan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.14
38 used & new from CDN$ 18.14

5.0 out of 5 stars "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself: I am large. I contain multitudes." Walt Whitman, March 10 2015
The Whitman observation reminds me of the lyrics Joni Mitchell composed for one of her most popular songs:

"I've looked at life from both sides now,
from win and lose, and still somehow
it's life's illusions I recall.
I really don't know life at all."

I wish had a dollar for every time I have heard the comment, "What you see is what you get." Møre often than not, what we see is what others allow to be seen and it is also true that many (most?) people are unwilling and/or unable to examine what is in what Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener characterize as a "human psychological knapsack" and then integrating into their lives what has been "previously ignored and underappreciated parts of who [they] are." They wrote this book to help as many people as possible to bring wholeness within reach, "perhaps for the first time."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kashdan and Biswas-Diener's coverage:

o Why the Way We've Been Pursuing Happiness Won't Make Us Happy (Pages 2-10)
o What Wholeness Looks Like, Beyond the Impostor Syndrome, and The Virtues of Throwing in the Towel (13-17)
o The Benefits of Fantasy (17-18)
o The Origins of Comfort Addiction (29-37)
o What's the Alternative? and Psychology's Holy Grail (44-51)
o Why Bad Can Be More Powerful Than Good (54-59)
o A Tour of Three Dreaded Emotions: Anger, Guilt, and Shame (66-84)
o Effectively Harnessing and Using Anxiety (92-93)
o Has Happiness Been Taken Too Far? (100-116)
o Three Mindless Paths to Success and Well-Being (128-147)
o Understanding the Three Parts of the Teddy Effect(159-163)
o All the World's a Stage (177-181)
o Recognizing Your Positivity Bias (192-200)
o Broad Strokes or Fine-Toothed Comb (214-220)
o Beyond Happiness (220-221)

I agree with Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener: "To progress on your journey of personal growth, love, and meaning and purpose in life, you need to become aware of all aspects of yourself, including your darker tendencies, and be agile enough to integrate them into your behavioral repertoire as needed. Do not repress, ignore, or hide the darker gifts [and they really are gifts]. Be aware of them, appreciate them, and then you're ready harness them. When you do this, you'll find you've gained greater access to well-being. To do otherwise is to be enslaved by fear, to set an artificial limit on what you experience and accomplish in this, the one and only life we know for sure that you'll have. Make the most of it. Become whole."

Easier said then done? Of course. Will reading and then perhaps re-reading this book make anyone whole? Perhaps less incomplete, somewhat more fulfilled, but hardly whole. Each of us really is a "work in progress." However, I am certain that the information, insights, and counsel provided in this book will help many of those who read it to gain access to everything or at least much of what they are hauling in their "psychological knapsack [by] unpacking and integrating previously ignored and underappreciated parts of who [they] are."

Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter
Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter
by Cass R. Sunstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
41 used & new from CDN$ 18.80

5.0 out of 5 stars How to separate, implement, and optimize the divergent and convergent stages of every problem-solving process, March 9 2015
As I began to read this book, I was reminded of a passage in one of Tom Davenport's recent books, Judgment Calls. He and co-author Brooke Manville offer "an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance": [begin italics] organizational judgment [end italics]. That is, "the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader's direct control." Whenever asked if two heads are better than one, however, I reply, "Which heads?"

Organizational judgment can often be substantially better than the judgment of any one person but as Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie correctly point out, "in the real world, discussion often leads people in the wrong directions. Many groups fail to correct the mistakes of their members. On the contrary, groups often amplify those mistakes. If groups are unrealistically optimistic, groups may be more unrealistic still. If people within a firm are paying too little attention to the long term, the firm will probably suffer from a horrible case of myopia. There is no evidence that the judgment mistakes uncovered by behavioral scientists are corrected as the result of group discussion."

Sunstein and Hastie organize and present their material within four Parts: In Chapters 1-5, they explore the sources of group failure. They explain how to avoid or correct (a) members' errors, (b) embracing a herd mentality, (c) becoming more extreme, and (d) valuing shared information at expense of unshared information. Re the latter point, Carla O'Dell and Jackson Grayson have much of value to say about that in their classic work, If Only We Knew What We know. Then in Chapters 6-13, Sunstein and Hastie shift their attention ton to the sources of group success. For example, in Chapter 7, they explain the immense importance of distinguishing between two quite different processes when attempting to solve a specific problem: identification of a list of potential solutions, and, selection of what seems to be the best solution. With regard to solving problems, I am again reminded of an observation by Peter Drucker in 1993: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Sunstein and Hastie's coverage:

o Group Failures (Pages 19-99)
o Amplification impact: nature and extent (43-46)
o Group biases (53-55)
o Cascades of positive and negative momentum (57-75)
o Risk-taking (78-80)
o Group Successes (101-212)
o Eight ways to reduce failures(103-124)
o Devil's Advocates and leaders (115-118)
o Identifying and selecting solutions (125-142)
o Using bias reduction (138-140)
o When crowds are wise (143-156)
o "Experts" (157-164)
o Tournaments to generate good ideas and spark creativity (165-180)
o Friedrich Hayek and prediction markets (181-194)
o Problem-solving(208-210)

One of Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie's primary objectives is to help teams make better decisions. In my opinion, these are the most valuable lessons to be learned about all that from the abundance of information, insights, and counsel they provide.

o Make absolutely certain that the team's focus in on answering the right question, solving the right problem, etc.
o When in group discussion, team leaders should devote at least 80% of their time listening and observing; no more than 20% speaking.
o They should strongly encourage a diversity of perspectives, especially principled dissent.
o When obtaining the information required by the given process of decision-making, all relevant sources should be consulted.
o In terms of division of labor, tasks should be assigned to those best-qualified in terms of knowledge, experience, and judgment.
o Implementation of a decision should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate unexpected changes.
o Use a "devil's advocate" approach when subjecting each option to rigorous scrutiny.
o Then consider using a "red team" approach to challenge the primary team during its implementation of the given decision.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out two others: Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls, co-authored by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis.

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership: Classical Wisdom for Modern Leaders
The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership: Classical Wisdom for Modern Leaders
by M. A. Soupios
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.52
43 used & new from CDN$ 8.16

4.0 out of 5 stars "Everything changes, nothing changes." Heraclitus, March 7 2015
Although M.A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas selected the term "rules," I think "defining characteristics" or "core principles" are more accurate when explaining the achievements and consequent eminence of those whom they discuss in this book. (Another of their terms, "ancient insights," is also preferable.) It is noteworthy that Soupio and Mourdoukoutas take a philosophical approach to their selections of (let's call them) "rules" with an emphasis on character rather than conquest. For example, here are three key points within what they characterize as "The Golden Leadership Grid":

o The "fate" of organizations is not based on the stars. The character of an organization's leadership determines a company's destiny.
o The character of a real leader is the result of a carefully crafted philosophy of life.
o A leader's philosophy is constantly informed by moral consideration.

Think of this book as a primer of fundamentals on leadership from a classical, traditional perspective. With regard to Rule #1, "Know Thyself," they credit Thales with introducing the concept, identify four impediments to knowing one's self, suggest how to follow the dictum, and contribute the first set of key points (admonitions, really) to the aforementioned "Grid." The narrative serves as a framework: more than an outline but less, much less than a series of insightful analyses.

Who will derive the greatest benefit from this book? First, those such as I who welcome any and all discussions of leadership that are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Also, those who are now in school or college and preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked upon one. Finally, I recommend this book to those who aspire to become leaders or who are in a supervisory position and need a values-driven framework or one that will increase their effectiveness.

Although M.A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas selected the term "rules," I think "defining characteristics" or "core principles" are more accurate when explaining the achievements and consequent eminence of those whom they discuss in this book. (Another of their terms, "ancient insights," is also preferable.) It is noteworthy that Soupios and Mourdoukoutas take a philosophical approach to their selections of (let's call them) "rules" with an emphasis on character rather than conquest. For example, here are three points of emphasis within what they characterize as "The Golden Leadership Grid":

o The "fate" of organizations is not based on the stars. The character of an organization's leadership determines a company's destiny.
o The character of a real leader is the result of a carefully crafted philosophy of life.
o A leader's philosophy is constantly informed by moral consideration.

Think of this book as a primer of fundamentals on leadership from a classical, traditional perspective. With regard to Rule #1, Know Thyself," they credit Thales with introducing the concept, identify four impediments to knowing one's self, suggest how to follow the dictum, and contribute the first set of key points (admonitions, really) to the aforementioned "Grid." The narrative serves as a framework: more than an outline but less, much less than a series of insightful analyses.

Who will derive the greatest benefit from this book? First, those such as I who welcome any and all discussions of leadership that are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Also, those who are now in school or college and preparing for a career in business or who have only recently embarked upon one. Finally, I recommend this book to those who aspire to become leaders or who are in a supervisory position and need a values-driven framework or one that will increase their effectiveness.

Leading From the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women
Leading From the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women
by Angie Morgan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.40
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable lessons for men as well as women that can help accelerate personal growth and professional development, March 2 2015
Long ago, I realized that most limits are self-imposed and therefore, I was pleased and (yes) relieved to know that if I set the limits, I could modify or even eliminate them. Later, I came upon Henry Ford's observation, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right." I was reminded of all this when I began to read this book in which two former Marine Corps officers, Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, take turns telling their stories, sharing what they've learned that has worked for them, and showing how it can work for their readers in all areas of their lives, on the job and elsewhere.

I agree with Morgan and Murphy that "few women understand how their behavior can help or hurt their career"...indeed, how their behavior can help or hurt their relationships at work and elsewhere. Morgan and Murphy's stated purpose is to focus on leadership, providing an abundance of information, insights, lessons, tools, and counsel that will help women to think more clearly, make better decisions, and behave more effectively. As I indicate in the subject of this review, I think the material in this book could also be of substantial, perhaps invaluable assistance to men, especially those whose direct reports include women whose attitude and behavior may be self-defeating.

After their Introduction, Morgan and Lynch take an unorthodox approach in the ten chapter-narrative that follows: Following a brief introduction to individual chapters, they take turns sharing their thoughts about a variety of topics. They then provide a "Chapter Summary Points" section for each. These are among the passages of greatest interest to me.

o Leadership Lessons (Pages 3-5)
o Lead Star's 10 Leadership Principles (5-6)
o Applying Marine Lessons to Life After the Corps (11-14)
o Ensuring That You Meet the Standards Means That You Can Pass Any Test, Any Time (23-26)
o A good Decision Today Is Better Than a Great Decision Tomorrow (37-42)
o Trust our Gut When It's Decision Time (45-50)
o Accepting Responsibility Is the First Step Toward Success (55-60)
o Take Care of Those to the Left and Right of You (74-76)
o Look for Unspoken Needs (85-86)
o Overreacting Puts Others On the Defensive (99-101)
o Keep Taking Action Until the Situation Is Resolved (110-115)
o Some Crises Call for Creativity (115-120)
o Keep the End Result in Mind at All Times (128-132)
o Success Stories Have a Common Theme (138)
o Unnecessary Apologies Lead to Misplaced Blame (161-164)
o You Can't Help People Who Won't Help Themselves

Before concluding this brief commentary, I would to acknowledge - and commend -- Morgan and Murphy on their clever use of boxed insights (identified with a USMC logo) that are inserted strategically throughout their lively and elo9quent narrative. Here are three examples:

"Good decisions can be made with limited information, and perfect decisions are unrealistic. Practi8ce making timely decisions when the stakes are low, and by the time you have to make a tough call, you'll be prepared to handle the pressure and make a decision quickly." (Page 42)

"Failing to take care of those you lead can have damaging consequences. In addition to losing the loyalty, dedication, and motivation of your team [as well as their trust and respect], you may ultimately lose your team members. Strong teams have leaders who constantly look for ways to serve and assist others, especially during times of personal crisis." (81)

"When you're in a crisis, don't panic and freeze - that won't solve anything. If you feel you're in over your head and don't know how to handle the crisis, seek counsel from someone with experience who can help you deal with the situation at hand." (115)

These are hardly head-snapping revelations, nor do Angie Morgan and Courtney Murphy make any such claim. However, for those with limited experience as a leader who need practical advice, the observations and suggestions enclosed in the dozens of boxes will identify leadership basics that can have wide application and deep impact for end-users as well as for supervisors who share them with those for those for whom they are responsible. Those who read this book will also appreciate the provision of a "Summary Points" section at the conclusion of each of the ten chapters. This material will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later.

Creative Anarchy: How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design for Creative Success
Creative Anarchy: How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design for Creative Success
by Denise Bosler
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.19
35 used & new from CDN$ 23.19

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the best design is "barely noticeable because it works seamlessly into its environment and for its audience", March 1 2015
Some human activities require that the given rules be strictly followed or there could be serious, perhaps fatal consequences. For example, driving at a high rate of speed on the wrong side of a limited access highway. When engaged in other activities, rules are actually guidelines: whether or not they are followed depends on the given circumstances. This is especially true of the creative and performing arts.

After demonstrating his mastery of fundamentals in less than an hour, during an interview process that normally lasts several days, Pablo Picasso was accepted as a student by Madrid's Royal Academy of San Fernando, at that time the foremost art school in Spain. He was 15 years-old. Later, he observed, "You must learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."

The highly unorthodox, genuinely exciting design of this book demonstrates the truth of Denise Bosler observation that serves as the subject of this review. The material is presented within two Parts: Learn the Rules, and, Break the Rules. I was surprised to find, when reaching the conclusion of Part 1, that Part 2 is upside down. Later, when I finished Part 2, I found that Part 1 was....

No doubt its format breaks several traditional rules but so what? It got my attention. In fact, when I discovered it, I let out a whoop! The production values of the book are superior, comparable with the classic volumes published Abrams from 1959 until the firm was purchased by La Martinière Groupe in 1997.

Credit designer Claudean Wheeler and production coordinator Greg Nock for this book's superior production values. In fact, the coordination and correlation of text with design/illustration are seamless. In fact, they are interdependent. Also, I commend Bosler on her brilliant presentation of material with a writing style that has snap, crackle, and pop as well as grace. Bravo!

These are among the passages of greatest interest to me:

Introduction

o Why Design Matters, Why Design Rules Matter, & Why Creative Anarchy? (Pages 1-4)

Part 1: Learn the Rules

o Idea generation (Pages 13-16)
o Design basics (17-26)
o Contrast (25-26)
o Typography (27-43)
o Colors (44-49)
o Gestalt principles of design (67-72)
o Ego-free designer (73-77)
o Moderate-safe design (78-79)

Part 2: Break the Rules

o Gallery of advertising and advertisements (Pages 16-17)
o Branding (23-29)
o Examples of branding (30-40)
o Gallery of posters (51-58)
o Gallery of publication design (68-79)
o Gallery of packaging (107-115)
o Interactive design (120-123)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mind can possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Denise Bosler provides. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of this book. If you agree with me after you read it, I commend to your attention another volume, Rotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine, co-edited by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen.

The Responsible Leader: Developing a Culture of Responsibility in an Uncertain World
The Responsible Leader: Developing a Culture of Responsibility in an Uncertain World
by Tim Richardson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.95
23 used & new from CDN$ 20.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Without personal as well as shared accountability, little (if anything) of enduring value can be accomplished, Feb. 28 2015
As I began to read Tim Richardson's book, I was again reminded of another book, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, in which Bill George observes that authentic leaders are first and foremost authentic human beings. For me, this is his key point and because it seems so obvious, it may also seem simplistic. On the contrary, he has cut through all the rhetoric and urges his reader to examine her or his own core values. For most of us, that is an immensely difficult, perhaps painful experience.

It is noteworthy that, in The Inferno, Dante reserves the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Throughout all manner of organizations, there are women and men who are authentic leaders and should be commended. The reality is, their respective organizations need more of them. Indeed, all of us in our global community need more of them. In his subsequent book, Authentic Leadership, George challenges us to join their number, as does Richardson.

I agree with him: a definition of leadership is one “that each of us can weigh in our contexts. What it does and will include how we as leaders are more considerate, trustworthy, inspiring, interconnected, selfless, and properly courageous…For ours is the task of influence and counsel, which itself carries great responsibility, perhaps without the overt recognition that comes with being the main man or women.” Responsible leaders are defined at least as much by who they are as human beings as by the impact of what they do, what they achieve, as difference-makers.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Richardson’s coverage:

o Forming our mental models of leadership (Pages 5-6)
o Leadership through the ages (7-10)
0 Changes in sources of power: a 21st century revolution (10-20)
o Internal assuredness and attractiveness (28-33)
o Adaptability and learning orientation (34-38)
o Thinking and operating relationally (39-44
o Purpose and focus (44-48)
o The organizational dimension (63-73)
o The wider global and local connection (73-80)
o Listening to hear through the noise -- cultivate serenity (84-88)
o Redefining success (93-102)
o Enhanced learning cycle (109-123)
o Creating impactful and lasting development opportunities (124-131)
o Responsibility from commitment, not compliance: it starts with out view of the world (136-144)
o Impacting culture intentionally (145-159)
o Restructuring alone will not yield results (168-171)
o Measurement alone will not change behavior (173-176)
o A new way of being -- stepping forward for the greater good (182-190)

The information, insights, and counsel that Richardson provide in these and other passages help the reader to gain an almost 3D perspective on what responsible leadership is…and isn’t. There are practical issues to be addressed (how to obtain sufficient resources to achieve the given objectives) but also emotional issues (how to enlist and engage others with a compelling vision) and spiritual issues (how to serve higher purposes) that responsible leaders must address. In Chapter 4, "Living with paradox as a responsible leader," Richard shares his thoughts about "looking for and seeing beyond while dealing with the immediate." Throughout history, the greatest leaders demonstrate their ability to do so but it is important to keep in mind that great leaders -- viewed as gardeners -- have a "green thumb" for "growing" leaders among those with whom they are associated. They create and sustain what Richardson characterizes as a "culture of responsibility."

This is precisely what Lao-tse has in mind in this passage from the Tao Te Ching:

"Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves."

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Bill George's aforementioned True North, written with Peter Sims, as well as James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass and Norman Pickavance's The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations.

The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations
The Reconnected Leader: An Executive's Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations
by Norman Pickavance
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 56.95
24 used & new from CDN$ 33.31

5.0 out of 5 stars "Get real or you're toast." Lancelot Fahrquart, Feb. 27 2015
Thinking about reconnection presupposes a previous connection. That is the approach by which Norman Pickavance frames his thoughts and feelings about how to create "responsible, purposeful and valuable organizations" by reconnecting those who lead them with new, unprecedented realities in what has become a volatile global marketplace. Executives and organizations can indeed "lose their way," forgetting or replacing values, behaviors, and alliances that once helped them to achieve success.

I agree with Pickavance: "The tide has turned. Changes in our economic, technological and environment ecosystems have unleashed unprecedented forces, dragging society by invisible rip tides into a great sea of uncertainty. Leaders of our largest institutions increasingly cut off from what is going on around them. We are witnessing a sea change. When eras change, the choreography of events no longer follows the narrative we are accustomed to. Everything seems disjointed as we are bombarded by conflicting signals."

What to do? How to do it? To paraphrase Buffalo Springfield:

"There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a book by Pickavance there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down"

As I began to read his book, I was again reminded of another, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, in which Bill George observes that authentic leaders are first and foremost authentic human beings. For me, this is his key point and because it seems so obvious, it may also seem simplistic. On the contrary, he has cut through all the rhetoric and urges his reader to examine her or his own core values. For most of us, that is an immensely difficult, sometimes painful experience.

It is noteworthy that, in The Inferno, Dante reserves the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Throughout all manner of organizations, there are women and men who are authentic leaders and should be commended. The reality is, their own organizations need more of them. Indeed, all of us in our global community need more of them. In his subsequent book, Authentic Leadership, George challenges us to join their number as does Pickavance.

I agree with Pickavance that "the trust that once oiled the wheels of commerce - the trust that is the key for risks to be taken - is being drained out of the system, like oil from a gearbox. Gears that once moved smoothly now grind and grate upon each other. When trust has gone, business runs on a less efficient basis; customers never become loyal [much less 'evangelistic']; employees never fully commit; organizations continue to function but the creativity, passion, and joy of working together with people in a join endeavor disappear."

As William Butler Yeats once observed in his poem, The Second Coming,

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pickavance's coverage through Chapter 06:

o Re-imagining leadership: A recurring phenomenon (Pages 8-14)
o A framework for "reconnected leadership" (16-19)
o Are we learning the right lessons?: Banks (28-30)
o Why competitive pressure crowds out ethical policies (33-35)
o Engineering out human connections Fragmenting performance (45-47)
o Fragmenting performance (48-53)
o The downsides of a digitally enhanced corporation (55-57)
o Introduction: The arrival of the connected era (65-67)
o The power of purpose: Are you a Mode 1 or Mode 2 organization (70-72)
o The five principles of a purpose-driven business (89-90)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: Purpose (95-97)
o Positioning: The six leadership practices (99-100)
o Speaking truth to power (113-116)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: Governance (119-121)
o Step 3: Creating reconnected cultures (125-133)
Note: This passage includes mini-case studies:

- Create: A social enterprise to help people get their lives back
- Gore-Tex
- Morning Star
- Zappos

o Connected talent environment: The power of many (136-138)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: workplace environment (145-149)

In this volume, Norman Pickavance provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization - whatever its size and nature may be - to develop reconnected leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. The eight-step process he proposes will meanwhile help to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. This book is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Those who share my high regard for it are urged to check out Bill George's aforementioned True North, written with Peter Sims, as well as James O'Toole's The Executive's Compass and Tim Richardson's The Responsible Leader: Developing a Culture of Responsibility in an Uncertain World.

Fighting Over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution
Fighting Over the Founders: How We Remember the American Revolution
by Andrew M. Schocket
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 37.66
23 used & new from CDN$ 29.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Why "the American Revolution will take place in different ways depending on the medium in which it is depicted." Andrew Schocket, Feb. 26 2015
Officially, the Revolutionary War ended when the Treaty of Paris was signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783. However, as Andrew Schocket explains in this book, there have been disagreements -- sometimes severe disagreements -- about various issues. For example, "One of the debates for which we conscript the founders is whether the United States is a national of individuals or a national community. It comes up when we talk about guns, or health care, or speech, or the Internet and in many other arenas. Of course, we are both individuals and community members."

Schocket then observes, "Despite being a process more than two centuries ago, and memorialized everywhere, the American Revolution continues to be a subject of controversy. It's rarely the subject of open debate. But the way Americans show it, talk about it, and wrote about it reveals that we are deeply divided about the Revolution 's meaning."

These are among the subjects discussed in the book that are of greatest interest to me:

o Differing contemporary (i.e. Revolutionary era) perspectives on the Founding Fathers (so named by President Warren Harding)

o How the Revolutionary era has been portrayed in films (The Patriot and American Treasure), on television (the PBS series, "John Adams" and "Adams Chronicles" as well as "Liberty's Kids"), and in textbooks such as Cleon Skousen's "The Making of America"

o Appropriation of Founding Fathers to serve political purposes in recent years (e.g. what Evan Thomas characterizes as "Founders chic")

o Differences of opinion between and among authors of books about the Founding Fathers and their era, including (in alpha order) W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Ron Chernow, Francis Cogliano, Joseph Ellis, Walter Isaacson, Alex Kulikof, Jesse Lemisch, David McCullough, Gregory Nobles, Cokie Roberts, and aforementioned Evan Thomas

o The evolution of attention to and discussion of Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Sally Heming

o Differing opinions about the career, character, and significance of (in alpha order) Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton

o The defining core values of essentialism

o The defining core values of organicism

o Differing views and definitions of "freedom" since the Declaration of Independence

o Recent appropriation of Founding Fathers, Declaration, and War to serve political purposes by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, G.H. Bush, and Obama as well as by Tea Party and Hillary Clinton (e.g. her call for an "Energy Declaration of Independence")

The "fog of war" makes it difficult (if not impossible) for combatants to see more than the circumstances in which they are involved. Schocket invokes another metaphor: "considering how historians have interpreted the Revolution, and how I encounter it, I realized that I was looking through the haze of my own perceptions and view of the world. So, too, were other historians. So, too, are we all. And the more I thought about it, the haze is not even natural; it's more like the 'smoke' from a dry ice machine -- in other words, a haze largely of our own making. This book attempts to clear the air, if only a little."

In fact, Andrew Schocket shares a great deal of light on areas in which there had either been shadows or the "haze" to which he refers. He possesses the skills of a world-class raconteur while sharing a wealth of historical information and insights about one of the most important eras in human history. Bravo!

The Attacker's Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities
The Attacker's Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities
by Ram Charan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.44
38 used & new from CDN$ 14.76

5.0 out of 5 stars This is the most valuable contribution to business thought leadership that Ram Charan has made…thus far., Feb. 25 2015
I have read and reviewed all of the books that Ram Charan has written or co-written and am convinced that The Attacker’s Advantage is the most valuable...thus far. Why? Because the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that he provides can be of substantial assistance to almost anyone, at any level and in any area of the given enterprise, to improve their leadership and management skills. The title of the book refers to "the world of large-scale [i.e. high-impact] entrepreneurs who create [or recognize] a new need, scale it up quickly, and put a bend in the road for traditional players...The attacker's advantage is the ability to detect ahead of others those forces that are radically reshaping your marketplace, then position your business to make the next move first."

Those who read and then re-read) this book with appropriate care will accelerate their development of five essential capabilities:

1. Perceptual acuity
2. A mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty.
3. The ability to see as new path forward and commit to it.
4. Adeptness in managing the transition to the next path.
5. Skill in making the organization steerable and agile.

Each of these is an important WHAT that countless other business thinkers have already identified. Charan explains HOW while in process revealing the WHY.

Consider, for example, the importance of anomalies. Years ago, Isaac Asimov observed, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but 'That's odd....'” Charan has a great deal of value to say about the importance of anomalies (on Pages 50-57) when suggesting “what to watch for.” Any fool can connect dots. Those whom Charan characterizes as “catalysts” know which dots to connect, to be sure, but of much greater importance, they recognize and grasp the significance of potentialities and implications such as causal relationships. Catalysts constantly practice the skill of “sorting, sifting, and selecting what matters from the vast and changing external landscape.”

Once again as he does in so many of his previously published works, he makes brilliant use of reader-friendly devices such as a checklist of Takeaways for each of the four Parts. They serve as study guide questions. Another section, "IN THE NEXT CHAPTER...," concludes each chapter, offering a head's up to key material in the next chapter. And also, real-world exempla that include companies such as Tata Communication, LEGO Group, Kaiser Permanente, and Merck as well as executives that include (in alpha order) Marc Andreessen, Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Fink, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ruben Mettler, Ralph Nader, Hal Sperlich, and Steve Schwarzman. As Charan carefully indicates, there are valuable lessons to be learned from all of them. It is also true that the reader-friendly devices will help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of the most important material later.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Charan’s coverage:

o The Essentials of Leading in Uncertainty (Pages 5-10)
o Redefining an Industrial Icon: GE (23-26)
o Five Examples of Catalysts (41-47)
o Seek Contrary Viewpoints (61-63)
o Be a Voracious Reader (71-73)
o Consumers Hold the Key (89-94)
o Removing the Blockages to a Path of Uncertainty (103-112)
o Benefits of the Joint Practice Session (133-137)
o The Joint Practice Session: Transparency and Coordination (131-133)
o A JPS (Joint Practice Session) in Financial Services (139-145)
o Identifying [Critical] Decision Nodes (157-161)
o Assigning the Leaders of Critical Nodes (161-164)
o Monitoring How the Nodes Are Working (166-172)
o Setting Short-Term Milestones (174-179)
o Keep Others with You (191-194)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the quality and value of the material that Ram Charan provides in this, his latest and as indicated, what I consider to be his most important work...thus far. I agree with him that "taking control of uncertainty is the fundamental leadership challenge of our time." It is worth noting that the original meaning of the Chinese character for "crisis," formulated centuries ago, is both "peril" and "opportunity." Now and in months to come, uncertainty is certain to pose even greater challenges to leaders in all organizations, whatever their size and nature may be. Hence the importance of gaining and sustaining the attacker's advantage. I urge those in organizations that now lack such an advantage to read and then re-read this book. Also, check out the resources at ram-charan.com, especially the key capabilities assessment.

Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most
Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most
by Hendrie Weisinger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.56
37 used & new from CDN$ 18.55

5.0 out of 5 stars How and why pressure can be “the enemy of success: It undermines performance and helps us fail”, Feb. 24 2015
Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry are well-qualified to answer a question that many of us ask at one time or another: “How can I do my best when it matters most?” For more than twenty years, they have been accumulating information about how people experience pressure. Their research has been conducted all over the world via workshops, seminars, business school presentations, clinical therapy, coaching sessions, and consulting relationships and activities with all many of organizations. “Each of the twelve thousand people we studied was assessed by anywhere from six to fourteen people, so in total we had more than one hundred thousand people assess the twelve thousand subjects. We identified the top 10 percent on their manager’s performance ratings from all who assessed them.” Insofar as how people experience pressure is concerned, this book examines what works, what doesn’t and why.

As the title of my review suggests, pressure can deplete our behavioral skills. In severely stressful situations, most people per form well below their capability. Alas, pressure can be “camouflaged” as it increases inconspicuously and, in my opinion, the stress that many (most?) people feel today is greater than at any prior time that I can remember. Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry wrote this book in order to share what they have learned about how almost anyone can do their best when it matters most.

I presume to add a few brief thoughts of my own. First, stress has dozens of sources and its impact can be either positive or negative, depending on the given circumstances. For example, deadlines can create stress but sometimes they are necessary to ensure that work is completed in a timely manner. Also, it is important to differentiate what is important from what seems to be (but often isn't) urgent. This is one of Stephen Covey's most important points in his classic, The 7 Habits of Effective People. Finally, there are direct - and significant - correlations between and among physical, mental, and emotional health. All three require sufficient nourishment, including restoration of energy. In other words, pressure can have either a beneficial or detrimental impact on one's attitude and efforts, indeed on one's health.

Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry organize and present their information, insights, and counsel within three Parts. First, they provide an understanding of the nature and science of pressure. They examine the most significant differences between pressure and stress, for example, and explain how pressure can frequently be self-imposed. Next, they suggest a number of ways by which to avoid or diminish severe, self-defeating pressure with regulation, redirection, and release of flow. Solutions include "befriending the pressure moment" by thinking of it as a challenge or opportunity rather than as a threat or peril. Finally, they introduce their concept of COTE (i.e. Confidence, Enthusiasm, Optimism, and Tenacity) and explain how to build and then preserve a "COTE of Armor," one that consists of internal pressure management techniques, skills, tools, and other resources.

Also, of new habits of thinking and of behavior. In this context, I am again reminded of Aristotle's observation, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry are convinced -- and I wholly agree -- that pressure moments often occur unexpectedly, catching us off-guard. They require an effective response and those who possess a "COTE of Armor" will be well-prepared to do so.

"Bottom line, the more you do the activities we discuss, and the more support you have to incorporate these attributes into your behavior and life, the more likely it is that you will develop the natural protection against high-pressure situations that these attributes confer." Either manage pressure or be managed by it.

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