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on 10 September 2009
I came to this book already ready familiar with the field of adult ego development (e.g. Bill Torbert, Robert Kegan, Ken Wilber, Susanne Cook-Greuter), and its application to leadership as pioneered in the UK by David Rooke. This body of knowledge underpins much of my work as a coach / consultant, because I find it a powerful map of the human condition. On this basis, Leadership Agility adds a useful new dimension in several ways:

I liked the Chapter on `The Five Eds' which brings to life the differences in thinking and behaviour at different levels of leadership / meaning making. I can imagine giving this chapter to a client as a primer. Indeed much of the book is written in an accessible style which lends itself to `end users' as much as consultants.

The Leadership Agility framework itself, describing four dimensions of agility: context-setting, stakeholder, creative and self leadership will be a useful tool to help people apply the insights from a developmental perspective. The integration of work on power style - the extent to which an individual pushes or pulls - is also helpful. The agility framework has also been used to design an on-line 360 degree feedback tool.

There's one chapter dedicated to developing one's leadership agility. Whilst a useful outline, it could offer more and readers with a real interest will need to seek further. Fortunately there are enough references provided for people to do so.

In taking a pragmatic approach, Joiner and Josephs have applied new language to the post conventional stages (defined as individualist, strategist and alchemist by Torbert and Rooke), instead framing them as `post-heroic' and terming them catalyst, co-creator and synergist. I suspect that with the new language may also come some loosening of definitions. This may irritate some who are familiar with the original work, although the references acknowledge the source material and there's a map of the different models in the appendix. This will be less of a problem for those coming fresh to the book, and I'll be interested to hear about how people (especially non consultants) respond to these new terms.

Overall, Joiner and Josephs offer a pragmatic, behaviourally grounded approach to understanding and developing different levels of leadership, based on developmental psychology. It's an important and useful contribution to the field.
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on 21 September 2007
As a psychologist and leadership consultant with a constructive-developmentalist perspective I was excited to learn about this book. I was even more excited when reading the reviews here.

Thus, I didn't wait for LEADERSHIP AGILITY to come out in paperback...

Alas, I just couldn't finish the book. Part of it is style: I tire easily of illustrative stories about "Bob" and "Susan." Also, any clarity that was generated got lost in later, unnecessary complications.

So... I wanted to like this book. I was thrilled someone was tackling leadership with a "stage" theory.

And... I was disappointed.

If you are interested in this book: (a) wait for the paperback, (b) get a secondhand copy or, best, (c) visit your local library.

If you are genuinely interested in this subject matter and willing to do a little brain work, you can't go wrong with Robert Kegan's THE EVOLVING SELF and IN OVER OUR HEADS. These books are the classics.

Dr. Kirtland C Peterson
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on 20 July 2008
Books on leadership typically fall into one of these categories:
* Airport business books with a snappy title and a breezy style. They are quick and easy to read, and offer tips, aphorisms and advice.
* "Here is how I did it" by a famous business leader offering the story of their struggle and their tips for success.
* Bandwagon drivel. An academic or writer, usually with no leadership experience or knowledge, publishes some garbage with leadership in the title because they sell. So many books fall into this category, unfortunately.
* Rare and true insight on what leadership is all about. Perhaps about 1% of leadership books fall into this category.

Leadership Agility is in the last category, offering rare and true insight.

The book is based on the insight that people have to grow through different stages of leadership / wisdom / insights about life. If you are at one stage, you have to master the wisdom and insights of that stage, before you can really explore the next stage. (This is not conjecture, there is a huge amount of research in psychology and human development to support it.)

This books examine in a lot of detail how leaders at the different levels think about different situations, what things they pay attention to, what they consider important or unimportant, and what they do to lead. For example,

Someone at the 'expert' level will think they have the right answer, and expect other people to follow their authority.

Someone at the 'achiever' level will do more persuasion (sell their idea rather than tell), but still believe they have the right answer.

Someone at the 'co-creator' level is aware they have a perspective, one perspective out of many valid perspectives. Leaders at this level give much more attention to ensuring everyone has a chance to voice their view and gaining true commitment through an answer that integrates everybody's view.

This is not about different styles or personality types. Rather it is a model of leadership comptences that is based on serious research.

Who should read it?
* If you are studying leadership, or perhaps doing an MBA, then this should be near the top of your list.
* If you want a quick and easy read, perhaps for the beach, that will give you a handful of tips to try out, this book is not what you are looking for. To get the best out of this book, you need to read it, think about it, dip into it again and again.
* This book will really suit you if you are: really serious about your own personal development; prepared to invest time and energy to become a more effective leader; looking for a framework that has real substance, backed by years of research, not just some superficial gimmick.

People considering this book might also consider 'Action Inquiry' by Torbert. 'Action Inquiry' has more emphasis on the fundamentals, what it feels like on the inside, and has good exercises. 'Leadership Agility' has more emphasis on the behaviours used by leaders at the different levels. The two books complement each other very well.
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