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Most books on change posit the concept that the leader has to change herself or himself before the organization or community can improve. This book sets a high standard by encouraging ordinary people to follow the examples of Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
I heard Norman Schwartzkopf speak once about leadership. He said, "Be the leader you would like to have." That's the essence of this book.
Each principle is established by showing a quote from each of the three models, and then is followed by stories of ordinary people as well as those in major organizations.
The principles expressed here entail going several psychological levels lower into the human psyche than I have seen in other leadership books.
"Envision the productive community" is important as a first step, because chances are no one else sees the way that the people could cooperate to create much more. Human beings have trouble imagining what they have not yet seen, so those who are good at this can provide very valuable guidance to the others.
"First look within" is a good second step because it concentrates oneself on why one wants to change. It is very easy to want the change for the wrong reasons (pride, self-esteem, or misdirected ego). You have to purge that and focus on selfless reasons for changing.
"Embrace the hypocritical self" was very impressive to me as a concept. Almost every leader I know is actually partly driven by hypocritical motives. Even the Stephen Covey books show examples where he seems to have been operating hypocritically. I sense this issue in many of my consulting projects, and find that it is difficult for people to address this.
"Transcend fear" is good advice, too, because trying to make such large changes will undoubtedly encourage unusual levels of fear. Working through the fear is good for the leader and those who will benefit from the change.
"Embody a vision of the common good" is essential inspiration to carry the vision forward both internally and by drawing support from others.
"Disrupt the system" is based on complexity science. By creating disruption, you create the largest potential for self-organizing solutions to be generated.
"Surrender to the emergent process" is a follow-on application of complexity science. You have to trust what is working, because it will lead to other self-organizing improvements. Trying to "manage" this process at this change will simply shortchange its potential.
"Entice through moral power" is something that needs to permeate each of the earlier stages. There is a compelling quality to moral power that draws attention and commands respect and action. Here, the leader must be clearly acting from beyond self-interest to attract the collective support of those who respect the same moral tenets.
I found this combination to be a unique synthesis of how change leadership can be accomplished. I can recognize the model from cases I have seen that worked and missing elements from the model in cases that did not work. I think the author has made an important step forward with this thinking. My only quibble is that the ordinary person reading this book may still have a conflict between the original reasons for seeking a change and the realities of how to pursue such a change. Almost everyone is attracted to making a difference initially because of a desire for self-aggrandizement. Early in the process, people may not be able to abandon that ego-based need for a selfless one. I suspect that more help is needed in this area than the book provides.
Overcome your disbelief and misconception stalls about making beneficial changes!
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on 18 October 2010
As the blurb says - "the idea that inner change makes outer change possible has always been part of spiritual and psychological teachings. But not an idea that's generally addressed in leadership and management training". Quinn looks at how leaders such as Christ, Gandhi and Luther King have mobilised people for major change - and suggests that, by using 8 principles, "change agents" are capable of helping ordinary people to achieve transformative change. These principles are -
* Envisage the productive community
* Look within
* Embrace the hypocritical self
* Transcend fear
* Embody a vision of the common good
* Disturb the system
* Surrender to the emergent system
* Entice through moral power

The book is an excellent antidote for those who are still fixated on the expert model of change - those who imagine it can be achieved by "telling", "forcing" or by participation. Quinn exposes the last for what it normally is (despite the best intentions of those in power) - a form of manipulation - and effectively encourages us, through examples, to have more faith in people. My only reservation about the book is that it does not emphasise enough that such processes require careful structuring and catalysts (see Brown; Isaacs; and Wheatley)
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