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Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (Leadership for the Common Good) Hardcover – 1 Sep 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

Product Description


"Ms. Kellerman’s volume is elegantly written and a pleasure to read…" -- The Wall Street Journal, 26 October, 2004

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
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
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Concise and well organized which makes it comparable.

Good examples of leaders who failed in their capacity as leaders a
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Format: Hardcover
Very simply an outstanding book that outlines the difference between companies that make it and those that out to be avoided like the plague. It should be made an International Law to black list all such failing companies because of the great damage they inflict on employees that suffer because of their failing leadership.

It should be part of the UN Human Rights Charter.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8f6295f4) out of 5 stars 27 reviews
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f635054) out of 5 stars A View From the Dark Side 21 Sept. 2004
By John Matlock - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We live in a time where the news is filled with countries, corporations, and other organizations that are failing to perform as they should. Ms. Kellerman has analyzed several of these and identified fundamental seven types of leadership that are prone to failure.

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.
55 of 65 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6350a8) out of 5 stars Bad Authorship 8 May 2005
By Dr. Cathy Goodwin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's not clear what we're supposed to learn from this book. As other reviewers have observed, Kellerman identifies five categories of bad leadership -- but they're ad hoc, arbitrarily derived groupings. Therefore we can't identify systematic causes of bad leadership, which would lead to meaningful prescriptions.

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.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6354e0) out of 5 stars Is this "Bad Leadership" or just "Bad Writing"? 28 Nov. 2004
By Douglas Daly - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Bad Leadership" lists 7 characteristics of bad leadership and gives examples of each. Some examples don't clearly reflect the bad quality being highlighted (e.g. the IOC chairman mentioned as incompetant seems more corrupt and insular). The 7-10 page descriptions of each bad leader are interesting, but rather than focusing on the leadership flaws/failings, the author merely gives a "Reader's Digest" summary of each leader.

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".
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f6358ac) out of 5 stars Sobering Account of Ways Leadership Goes Awry 3 Feb. 2005
By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing Kellerman give a lecture recorded on NPR. Her speech, based on her book Bad Leadership, was precise and purposeful. Not surprisingly, the book contains her precise language and her purpose, which is to show us how leadership, even when in the hands of well-intentioned people, can go wrong. She first argues that too many of us, inundanted with optimistic, often business-oriented books about leadership, assume, erroneously, that leadership is somehow synonymous with goodness and virtue. To the contrary, Kellerman argues, leadership goes wrong more often than not. In what appears to be a reverse pyramid from benign to malignant, Kellerman catalogs the seven deadly sins of leadership: 1. incompetence 2. rigidity 3. intemperance 4. callousness 5. corruption 6. insularity 7. evil.

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8f635858) out of 5 stars Brilliant, Bold and [Mostly] Useful 15 Aug. 2006
By C. Newell - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Harvard University's Kellerman presents an amazing, research-focused vivisection of the many faces and roles of bad leadership, offers reasons for their occurrence, and exerts a clarion call for identification and eradication of same.

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"
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