If you only read one thing this week…


The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership – book review by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 29, 2006, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Book reviews, If you only have 15 mins

Recommended to me by one of the most creative and innovative Mercy Corps country directors I’ve ever worked with, Steven Sample writes an unusual and iconoclastic management book that I would highly recommend to contrarians everywhere!

Sample presents a very personal and esoteric model of leadership – his thesis is anecdotal, and his examples are drawn overwhelmingly from his experiences in two US universities – he’s certainly not for everyone.

The title makes reference to his style of presenting each chapter as turning some piece of conventional wisdom on it’s head, for example, by suggesting that, instead of keeping up with current affairs, newspapers and trade journals, a leader should focus on reading books that have been continually read for over 400 year (what Sample calls ‘supertexts’). He suggests that you depend on your team members to keep up with the daily press, the point being that you can’t copy your way to excellence; rather, true excellence can only be achieved through original thinking and unconventional approaches. According to Sample, you’ll get that from Homer, not the New York Times.

He draws heavily on Machiavelli (who gets a relatively one-sided evaluation from Sample) and other western classics, his command of eastern thinkers is less impressive. However, on balance, his advice is practical, unusual, and plausible. Despite my reservations, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone willing to wrestle with a controversial and challenging understanding of leadership, and looking for a book that will challenge all of their assumptions.
Powells, an independent bookseller, will sell and ship this book – see this link.

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