5.0 out of 5 stars
Timely, authentic and practical, 16 Aug 2009
As a management consultant heavily engaged in leadership development work I read a lot of such books. Marlier and Parker's timely book is outstanding and should be read by all those interested in management. It provides hope for all those that despair of the value-destroying behaviors so manifest in current management practice.
Containing just the minimum necessary theoretical framework, the book is above all the authentic reflection of what really happens inside organizations. Marlier and Parker ruthlessly expose the common mistakes of senior managers: the thoughtless behaviors, actions or words that achieve the exact opposite of what is desired. They contrast these stories with examples where wiser executives have achieved outstanding results. As they say, "Behaviors create and destroy financial value every day in business".
If you want to create real value for your organization, there is really no alternative to "engaging leadership". You can't do it all yourself, and you won't be successful coercing, bribing or browbeating your followers for long. How else can you succeed than through engaging your followers to be as passionate and committed as you are yourself?
Here are the principles of leadership engagement according to Marlier and Parker:
- We are here to co-create, [...]
- We are interested in your questions and concerns, as well as your creativity and ideas.
- Our style will match our message.
- We need your total engagement, not just blind obedience.
This is of course radically different to the "do as I say" style of leadership actually practiced by so many managers, in spite of their protestations (and perhaps even beliefs) to the contrary. Marlier and Parker analyse why in reality managers find it so difficult to be engaging (listing the eight misconceptions about the leadership engagement process) and provide practical guidance for how to make it work.
The book is timely since I believe we are in the midst of a slow evolution towards "engaging leadership" becoming the dominant style for successful managers. It is a pre-requisite to success in a workplace increasingly populated by Generation Y and by the rejection of an exclusive focus on short-term shareholder return in favor of balancing the needs of all stakeholders over the longer term. Executives no longer monopolise information and good ideas arise at all levels. Under these circumstances a "command and control" leadership style is wrong-headed and (in all except short-term emergencies) is doomed to produce mediocre results at best, if not actual failure.
Disclosure: I have worked professionally with Didier Marlier. I have a very high respect for his ability to assist executives in their leadership challenges.