- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (1 Sept. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591391660
- ISBN-13: 978-1591391661
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 533,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (Leadership for the Common Good) Hardcover – 1 Sep 2004
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"Ms. Kellermans volume is elegantly written and a pleasure to read " -- The Wall Street Journal, 26 October, 2004
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Inside This Book(Learn More)
WHEN HE WAS INSTALLED as president of Harvard University in October 2001, Lawrence Summers delivered a speech in which he declared that "in this new century, nothing will matter more than the education of future leaders and the development of new ideas." Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews
Good examples of leaders who failed in their capacity as leaders a
It should be part of the UN Human Rights Charter.
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INCOMPETENT: The leader and at least some followers lack the will or skill to sustain effective action.
RIGID: The leader and at least some of his followers are stiff, unyielding, and unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information or changing times.
Intemperate: The leader lacks self-control and is aided and abetted by followers who do not intervene.
CaALLOUS: The leader is uncaring or unkind, he ignores or discounts the needs of the rest of the organization.
CORRUPT: These people lie, cheat, or steal. They put self interest above all else.
INSULAR: They disregard or at least minimize the health and welfare of those outside the small center group.
EVIL: Some leaders and at least some followers commit atrocities.
In each of these catagories, she identifies leaders that illustrate her point. This leads to an understanding of why such bad leadership is harmful to the organization, and if the organization is the political leadership of a country, it is bad for the world.
Kellerman uses a broad definition of leadership that encompasses corporate leaders appointed by a board, elected leaders, founders of companies (like Martha Stewart), and self-appointed crazies like Jim Jones. Can we really load all these forms into one category -- and still come up with meaningful conclusions?
As others have noted, Kellerman's bias raises questions about credibility. She faults Bill Clinton for lack of leadership in three separate arenas -- more than any other "leader" in the book. Yet Clinton's health care "failure" can be partly attributed to a huge spending campaign by insurance companies, which she does not mention. His lack of action in Rwanda pales next to foreign policies by leaders who extended wars for political reason and ... well' we won't even go there.
As for the Lewinsky affair, Kellerman writes (p 35) that "tolerance for moral fallibility, even if evident only behind closed doors, has been low." Really? Many American leaders (JFK, LBJ, and others) have had rather varied experiences behind closed doors. Some countries remain baffled by the American concern with our leaders' "moral fallibility." And is Confucius really the appropriate source to cite when discussing modern leaders and their morals? Why not a historian or political scientist?
On page 43, Kellerman refers to Martha Stewart's "charges stemming from insider trading," noting that Stewart can be "mean." Stewart's legal position has been extremely controversial. Several legal scholars have questioned the decision to charge Stewart with lying to federal officials even when she was innocent of the insider trading charges. And where does Kellerman learn about Stewart's leadership style? The references cite popular trade books including an "unauthorized autobiography."
Ironically, one of Kellerman's prescriptions for dealing with "bad leadership" includes "Develop your own sources of information." That's a good idea for authors, too.
Other prescriptions are vague, such as "ensure punishment fits the crime." Who's to decide what fits the crime? Does the public gain from incarcerating a white collar criminal? And who decides what's a crime in the first place? Many reports of misconduct sound like horror stories -- but often the laws are ambiguous and enforcement becomes a showcase for a particular government agency.
"Good" and "bad" aren't always easy to identify and I'm not convinced these simplistic dichotomies are the most useful for education, policy, and yes, even leadership. A book published by HBS press should embody more scholarship and less hype.
However, the worst criticism I have for the book is its extreme redundancy. Every chapter describes the "bad followership" involved, which can be summarized as "Don't follow bad leaders". The author also spends many pages discussing how difficult it is writing such a book.
I hope someone else writes a good book on bad leadership/bad followership, as I find this topic very intriguing. Unfortunately, there seems very little insightful thinking involved in this book, and the fact that this was allowed to be published in this state is a perfect example of "Bad Followership".
She gives historical (Hitler) accounts and more contemporary (Rudolph Giuliani, Howell Raines) to illustrate her definitions of bad leadership.
She concludes by prescribing corrective measures. Her book is invaluable in that for us to fully grasp good leadership we must first comprehend its antithesis. A negative definition of leadership in all of its facets is a necessary nudge in the right direction.
Kellerman identifies seven specific types of poor leading:
1) Incompetent: lacks the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action with regard to at least one important leadership challenge
2) Rigid: stiff and unyielding; unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or a changing of the landscape
3) Intemperate: lacks self-control
4) Callous: uncaring or unkind; ignores or disregards the needs, wants, and wishes of others, especially subordinates
5) Corrupt: lies, cheats, or steals; puts self above any other interest
6) Insular: minimizes or disregards the health and welfare of anyone outside the group or organization for which they are directly responsible
7) Evil: outright disregard for even the human worth of others; egregious inhumanity.
As is common with Harvard B-School releases, the book is brilliant, innovative and analysis heavy. Prescriptions for change are succinct-- if you find this, kill it off-- yet limited in use: once found and destroyed, what do I do next?
Innovative and unflinching, it will be nevertheless most accessible to scholars and the scholarly among business leaders: a more populist rendering of the same discoveries, and prescriptions for improvement, would lift it far above the norm.
Coke Newell, MSPR, consultant and author, "Journey to Edaphica"