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Practice underpinned by thought,
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This review is from: Elite!: The Secret to Exceptional Leadership and Performance (Paperback)
Elite! Is all about the practicalities of getting a team to perform at the highest levels. Consistency and practice are core themes.
Floyd Woodrow strikes me as a man of action. As a former SAS Major, it fits the stereotype. His approach is yes to act, and do so quickly, but having first formed a plan carefully. This is definitely a man who thinks first. His approach to action is based on his training as a soldier, underpinned by his studies of psychology. In this, Elite! Forms an interesting contrast and complement to the thinking of sociologists such as Goffee and Jones. They see leadership as an interaction between the leader and the community of the led. For Woodrow, leadership is an individual interaction. Hence he discusses personal profiles (Myers-Briggs etc.) and focuses on the actions to get the best out of each individual as the foundation.
The book comes particularly alive when Woodrow discusses self-belief, motivation and dealing with adversity. In introduction, Ackland reports of Woodrow that he possesses an "aura of extreme calm coupled with a deep reservoir of latent energy." This allows him to focus single-mindedly on a vision that is clear, unambiguous and visible no matter what the adversity. Thus, to lead. Woodrow's interpretation of the somewhat limp "continual improvement" is continually to put himself in positions where he is tested to find how good he really is. This is not ego, but drive. The themes of commitment, pressure, optimism come in to support this. He also faces up to fear, that paralyses so much in organisational and personal life.
The book deals progressively with the leader as an individual; operating as a member of a team; leading a team; leading an organisation. The last of these is the least distinctive, being largely a report of Jim Collins "From good to great". There is a fascinating aside on the subject of negotiation, where Woodrow's security work has some striking insight into high-pressure situations. I suspect that he could sell anything to anyone, should he choose, which he does not here.
This is a practical approach underpinned by sound theory. It is written by a man who has been there and done it, learning as he went. It is mostly an easy book to read; enlivened by anecdotes based on Woodrow's military and other lives. These make for a rattling good yarn. The reader will be better equipped to lead and to know themselves at the end of this strong book.