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Fierce Leadership: A bold alternative to the worst 'best practices' of business today [Paperback]

Susan Scott
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 July 2011

Hire smart people. . .', 'Hold people accountable. . .', 'Focus on the client. . .'

For years, these mantras have been blindly adopted by business leaders everywhere but, as Susan Scott shows, these so-called best practices are ineffectual, cost companies vast sums and drive away the most valuable employees and customers. Yet they are so deeply ingrained in our organisational culture that no one has questioned them, until now.

Informed by over a decade of research and work with CEOs and senior executives of the world's leading companies, Susan Scott reveals why these established practices are so wrongheaded and shows you how to spot the signs that you are falling prey to them and why they are adversely affecting your business. She then, in her direct, no-nonsense style, suggests a series of surprising and smart alternatives that you should put in their place.

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Fierce Leadership: A bold alternative to the worst 'best practices' of business today + Fierce Conversations: Achieving success in work and in life, one conversation at a time + Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Piatkus (7 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0749952644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0749952648
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 119,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bestselling author Susan Scott has been working as a leadership development architect for more than two decades. She is the founder of Fierce, Inc., a global training company that helps Global 1000 companies generate significant results by transforming the conversations central to their success. Fierce, Inc.'s clients include Yahoo, Starbucks, Cisco, Nestle, and Coca-Cola. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Product Description


Susan Scott answers one of the most compelling questionas in business today: "why are healthy companies so sick?". For executives leading their organizations through a global economic crisis of this magnitude, Fierce Leadership provides a critical new roadmap (Cosima (Cos) LaPorta, Senior Vice President, Western/Pacific, Starbucks 'Scott's unique combination of business expertise and bold imagination will re-energize leaders, employees, and managers alike' Professor Stewart D. Friedman, Wharton School, Univers)

You can start using these ideas tomorrow. Hell, you can start using them today. Susan Scott shows why the received wisdom is wrong, and how we can get it right' Doug Stone, co-author of the international best-seller DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS ('Fierce Leadership has distilled valuable real life experiences and provides a clear roadmap for leaders, managers, employees, or any group of people working together to make positive change' Geri D. Palast, Former Assistant Secretary of Labor and Executi)

Susan Scott cuts through a lot of jargon and commonly accepted ideas and offers up specific, actionable steps to achieve better results. Pick one or two and get started today' Bill Ayer, President and CEO, Alaska Air Group ('Fierce Leadership will teach you everything you need to know to truly set your company, and your career apart’)

Keith Ferrazzi, bestselling author of WHO'S GOT YOUR BACK

Book Description

From the bestselling author of FIERCE CONVERSATIONS, here is a much-needed antidote to some of the wrongheaded practices that can be found in business today

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
With regard to the meaning of "fierce," it is the same when used in the title of Susan Scott's previously published book, Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time. The word usually connotes being aggressive, confrontational, perhaps even hostile when in fact Pierce notes that it can also be used when expressing affection, loyalty, appreciation, and perhaps even love. However it is used, whatever is expressed should be honest, real, genuine, frank, candid, and in all other respects authentic. The subtitle of this book refers to a "bold alternative to the worst `best' practices of business today." This is a subject of great interest to me because much nonsense has been written about how the best practices of a GE, for example, can help other organizations succeed. The fact is, that best practices are not core values. They must be modified, sometimes replaced entirely as changing circumstances demand. It is worth adding that GE's best practices during Jack Welch's last year (2001) as chairman and CEO have changed significantly since then.

Ernest Hemingway once observed that all great writers have a "built-in, shock-proof crap detector." Scott suggests that fierce leaders also have one as well as what she characterizes as a "squid eye." That is, as Paul Lindbergh explains, "Seeing squid means you are seeing many things that others cannot and do not see. It means having sight in the presence of the blind. It means that you are a selective and efficient information gatherer. This is what `quid eye' really means, and when you apply it to other aspects of your life, you will have, metaphorically, more tuna in your net and fewer guppies and old rubber boots. And if you can see one `tell' [i.e.
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Don't be put off by the title, it's not about attacking your employees, it's about managing them professionally, and ina way they both ask for (if you ask them) and like. If you manage people it's a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delivered promptly and an engaging read 6 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Only part way through this book but I like her style of writing. It is easy and engaging and straightforward.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 6 Aug 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was a big fan of her previous book "Fierce Conversatons". This is not up to that standard. Too repetitive, far too US-focused in example and solutions (when will management writers absorb that the European labour market imposes very different practices from the US one?). Not insightful or useful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  76 reviews
42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some Good - Some Not so Great 29 Sep 2009
By J. Avellanet - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you are fan of previous books in this type of "go against the grain" leadership genre - books like "First, Break All the Rules," "Made to Stick," "Predictably Irrational," "Slack," "The Starfish and the Spider," "Leaders," or "Stewardship," or even "Working with Emotional Intelligence" - you will not find much new here. Or at least I didn't.

If you are a big fan of benchmarking and going out to find "best practices" and then figuring out your strategy, basing your plans on what everyone else is doing versus what of that you can afford, this is THE book for you. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure you're going to be reading this review as another "best practices" book probably came out while I was writing this review and like moths to the flame, you've headed away to that glittering, glowing jewel....

For there rest of us, here is the ground that Susan Scott covers:

1. Moving away from 360-degree anonymous feedback to "365" days a year of face-to-face feedback

2. Hiring for smarts and emotional intelligence rather than just smarts

3. Modeling accountability and responsibility, not just putting them in a corporate ethics "agreement" required of all employees to sign

4. Moving away from employee "team-building" to actually being involved and supportive with your colleagues and your teams

5. Focusing on collaborating with your customers to create new products, better service, and better profits

6. Being transparent - not just in your decision-making and policies, but in getting feedback and input from your employees and your customers to acknowledge mistakes, change strategic directions, and so on

As you can see, if you're familiar with the list of books I noted at the beginning of this review, then "Fierce Leadership" is really just a regurgitation of those themes with Ms. Scott's personal take on them, her experiences, and her suggestions on steps to take in order adopt these themes.

And it is the latter that I believe is the real strength of this book - and where Ms. Scott shines - her step-by-step exercises and activities. There is little doubt that, for instance, by following her advice in Chapter 2 on hiring for smarts and emotional intelligence, you should get better employees and be a better leader.

I caution you to remember that 9 times out of 10, putting all of this into play is not just up to you. There's a whole host of other folks who are involved in implementing any one of these themes. And that's where we should all be cognizant that Ms. Scott is also a consultant, and can conveniently be brought in to help you get everyone in your organization on board.

Don't let this latter point detract from the book - just recognize that adopting these themes will require you to go against the grain, something that takes more than 306 pages of common sense.

To summarize, if you are unfamiliar with the list of resources I cited at the beginning of this review, then get "Fierce Leadership" - it will get you thinking in a new direction. If you've read many or all of the above, you'll not find much new here but may see Ms. Scott's book as a well-needed reinforcement on your journey to better business practices, better leadership, and better profit.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Consider but Don't Swallow Whole. 13 Oct 2009
By Tricia Huff - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I assumed this book would talk about common company initiatives that are ineffective, irritating or fail to ameliorate the admittedly mercenary attitude of the everyday employee.

For example I expected her to tackle common HR methods of interviewing or specific, sometimes lame, employee incentives. She does begin by pulling in the practice of anonymous feedback but later that appears to be just a cover for the author to discuss the practice of authenticity. Authenticity is a much needed commodity but it is not a company process exactly. It is an individual attribute which cannot be company mandated such as the processes of how you are going to go about hiring and firing. Cultivating the self-reflection to delve into one's own heart, acknowledging the truth of one's motivations, emotions and observations, then bringing those insights back into relationships through telling the truth in love - this is the practice of years, decades even. This is not a subject for which a few pointers can correct us if we go off course. I don't believe a company can create any form or method that is beyond the human ability to deceive. Either we have the desire for truth to pervade all aspects of our lives or we don't. Honesty is a measure of character and I think that this practice of authenticity is better seen through that lens of integrity than through the lens of how to get ahead at work.

Because you may be involved in a group where authenticity does not serve you well. If I am part of a group whose power structure is built upon denial, B.S. or outright deceit, then my practice of authenticity will not make my work life better. It just may make it hell. Folks who are into denial fight like tigers when their safe and secure modes of thinking are challenged. The author would have had my buy-in that she understood my life as an employee had she acknowledged that honesty amidst deceit may get you canned. Better advice might be if you find yourself in a workplace that is contrary to your character, integrity or simply your temperament you may need to quietly and competently look elsewhere for employment.

As the book continued I felt more cut off from the author as she laments the lack of personal responsibility demonstrated by so many. Indeed there are whiners but as a leader if someone comes to me with reasons for a failed initiative and I categorically label their behavior as "excuses", "playing the victim" or "failure to be accountable" then I have cut off my nose to spite my face. As an employee why be authentic with someone who will label me in such a manner? Additionally people feel badly when they fail or when a project is rough-going. Here may be an opportunity to extend compassion, brainstorm solutions and build relationship. I think Scott would agree but I don't see that side of her in the "get your act together" tone displayed in so much of this book. The continual admonishments to desist my dishonest whining start to sound as if the author imagines me, her reader, to be a complete git.

But the true gits are not reading this book. And have zero commitment to self-improvement. Inauthentic backstabbers don't perceive themselves as negatively as others experience them. It is a very competitive workplace, not everyone is mature, and you can easily find yourself up to your ears in a toxic environment. If it is you against this particular "world" the cost to you might be very great. Leaders who have spent years using denial and deceit as their predominant work relationship tool are not going to respond to authenticity well. By admonishing that it all begins with you Scott naively dumps the responsibility for change on to potentially just a few people in the organization.

Scott is a leader in her company and can shape her companies tone to suit herself. Like so many books about the business life it is as if Scott has viewed too many TV sitcoms depicting work as the place where I draw my need for relationship and fun. Sometimes it is a job not a career. I don't carry any judgment on those folks. But I also see that they have different concerns than ushering in a brave new world.

I wish the author had lopped off the first four chapters of the book. The last two chapters concerning customers, connection and getting groups within your organization to work together more realistically contain intriguing insights and suggestions. The brash tone becomes an informed conversation with the reader. As I read those last chapters I began to glimpse that she indeed does have a methodology about workplace relationship, one that got obscured by the initial choice of subject matter earlier in the work.

I enjoy reading about business culture and if you do also you may enjoy Scott's energy and bravery in even bringing this discussion of corporate authenticity and dishonesty to the table. The writing is punchy and quick. You can skip around without losing the thread. Just remember much of this work is opinion. She has earned her right to her opinions and they are worth a look. But as with any self-improvement tome, consider but don't swallow whole.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and much needed concepts 17 Sep 2009
By M. Damour - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Susan Scott and Fierce Conversations. When I heard that Susan was writing another book, and that it would cover so-called best practices in business today, I was intrigued. When I read an excerpt from one of the chapters earlier this summer, I laughed out loud at how deftly she pointed out the problems caused by 360 degree reviews (which had been a source of much dysfunction at companies I had worked for). I couldn't wait to real more.

The rest of the book did not disappoint. Once again, Susan's fresh perspective and keen insight provide business leaders and managers everywhere with what they need to propel themselves into a new way of thinking and leading. Have the courage to read this book with an open mind and to fly in the face of commonly accepted business wisdom that's really anything but. Fierce Leadership should be required reading for MBA students and people in executive development programs.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Snappy writing, lame on reality 31 Dec 2009
By Robert C. Anfinson - Published on
Susan's book is like the "girly" relationship jokes you see in "guy" movies. The "let's talk about our feelings and relationship" things. Not that she doesn't have a point on some of what she says with attractive ideas, but the book falls flat for the lack of actual, real-world results-and-performance examples.
This is a business book and therefor requires a bottom line. Don't give me warm and wonderful sounding theories, give me proof of some companies that saw an increase in profit, sales, employee morale and customer retention. Add some cold hard facts, please, otherwise its all useless.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sparkly, but basic 23 Nov 2009
By E. M. Van Court - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Ms. Scott touches on many basic points well, but this book comes across as more of a pitch for her consulting business than as a 'stand-alone' work.

I rather looked forward to this book, as I've been in both predominantly male, and predominantly female organizations, and had good and bad female and male bosses, but I hadn't read much on leadership by women.

I didn't see much that was particularly brilliant, but a lot that was competent and well packaged. Ms. Scott turns a nice phrase and uses vivid imagery, but in the end, it boils down to "deal with people (superiors, subordinates, and customers) openly and honestly, don't tolerate stupid, put the customer first". Several times, she stresses the need for 'after action reviews'; going through the 'what was the plan, what happened, what do we do again, what do we avoid, how do we do better' drills. This is a powerful tool in a healthy organization, and seldom gets as much attention as Ms. Scott gives it. However, I'm not certain the aggressive, confrontational attitude she preaches would work well for middle-managers who want to retain their positions. A boss advocating this book as a model might go looking for a new model in short order, if she or he gets feed up with having every decision challenged. This is more a reflection of disfunctional people and organizations than a criticism of the book itself.

My reservations about this book came to a head when Ms. Scott recommended doing away with jargon and buzzwords. This from a author whose book uses "fierce", "squid eye", "mokitas", radical transparency", and "customer centricity" with gay abandon. All these words an expressions are the sort of things that poor managers (bad leaders) latch onto and parrot until it becomes a cruel joke on the employees. Very quickly, words and phrases like these become an indication that the (bad) manager is about to blame someone and met out punishment.

I'd approach this one with caution. It would be very easy for it to be cited as a justification for some really ill-considered management.

E. M. Van Court
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