Saturday, May 8, 2010

Book Review By Prof.M.S.Rao “The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make” Authored By Hans Finzel

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized my yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” to be. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations (Shaw, 1972:84)

I have read the book titled “The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make” authored by Hans Finzel that has several valuable takeaways. The book is based on his personal and professional experience. It reminds me of a proverb, “A fool learns by his experience whereas an intelligent man learns by other people’s experience”. Of course, everyone becomes fool at some point of time in life. Hans lists out ten mistakes leaders make and provides solutions to overcome the same.

According to him, leadership is influence and a leader takes people where they would never go on their own. He outlines five challenges in learning to lead. They are:

1. Today’s leaders replicate the poor leadership habits they have observed in others.
2. Today’s leaders often lack basic skills for common leadership demands.
3. Today’s leaders lack good models and mentoring.
4. Today’s leaders lack formal training in leadership and
5. Today’s leaders suffer confusion over the conflict between secular and biblical leadership values.

Leadership Mistake # 1 – The Top-down Attitude:

Hans unfolds that the top-down attitude as the number-one leadership hang-up. He lists out what turns on and turns off the young workers. He outlines five reasons for getting trapped into top-down leadership attitudes such as being traditional, most common, easiest and it comes natural and reflects the depravity of man.

To overcome the challenges of top down approach Hans outlines participatory management, facilitator style, democratic leadership, flat organizational characteristics and servant leadership.

Leadership Mistake # 2 – Putting Paperwork before People work:

Hans clearly differentiated between task oriented and people oriented leadership styles. He devised simple test to discover the same that is reliable although it is unscientific.

He describes tools to push aside the paperwork such as:

• Love your wastebasket
• Do lunches away from work
• Take time off with your spouse, children, and friends
• Plan get-a-ways with combinations of the above
• Pray for people
• Jog with your colleagues
• Change locations to get out among people
• Delegate more
• Learn to “ransack” instead of reading everything
• See people as priority one
• MBWA, manage by wandering around.

Leadership Mistake # 3 – The Absence of Affirmation:

Hans highlights that everyone thrives on affirmation and praise. We wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness and learn to read the varying levels of affirmation your people need.

It is essential to affirm the good work done by others. We must encourage others by listening, empathizing, comforting and carrying burdens. A good leader learns to read the signs of upness and downness in the countenance of his people.

Leadership Mistake # 4 – No Room for Mavericks?

Webster defines a maverick as, “a pioneer an independent individual who does not go along with a group.”

Hans wrote in beautiful English language where he says that movements become monuments and inspiration becomes institution. He outlines life cycle of organizations from various stages such as birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, graying, old age and death.

He highlights few mavericks that made a difference such as Martin Luther, The Apostle Paul, William Carey, Lee Iacocca, Chuck Colson, Martin Luther King and Stephen Jobs. He reveals few techniques put mavericks in their place:

• “That’s impossible.”
• “We don’t do things that way around here. It’s too radical a change for us.”
• “We tried something like that before and it didn’t work.”
• “I wish it were that easy.”
• “It’s against policy to do it that way.”
• “When you’ve been around a little longer, you’ll understand.”
• “Who gave you permission to change the rules?”
• “Let’s get real, OK?”
• “How dare you suggest that what we are doing is wrong?”
• “If you had been in this field as long as I have, you would understand that what you are suggesting is absolutely absurd!”

Leadership Mistake # 5 - Dictatorship in Decision-making:

“Leadership is the ability to recognize the special abilities and limitations of others, combined with the capacity to fit each one into the job where he will do his best.” – J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

Hans firmly believes that the best comes from the “bottom” and the greatest ideas bubble up from the workers.

He describes how dictators like to operate such as hoarding decisions, making decisions alone, in a vacuum, viewing truth and wisdom as primarily their domain as the leader, restricting decisions to an elite group and surprising their workers with edicts from above. In contrast, the facilitators lead by pushing decisions down-line, involving others as much as possible in key decisions, viewing truth and wisdom as being distributed throughout the organization, being a developer, seeing their people as their greatest resource for ideas that will make them – and their people – successful, giving their people space to make decisions and finally letting those who are responsible decide how the jobs will be done.

Leadership Mistake # 6 - Dirty Delegation:

“I’d rather get ten men to do the job than to do the job of ten men.” – D.L.Moody

People must learn how to delegate effectively. Hans states few reasons why leaders don’t delegate such as:

• Fear of losing authority
• Fear of work being done poorly
• Fear of work being done better
• Unwillingness to take the necessary time
• Fear of depending on others
• Lack of training and positive experience

The four stages of delegation: assignment, authority, accountability and affirmation. Hans narrates the article published in Harvard Business Review about delegation way back in 1950 about ‘pass the monkey’. That means handing over the responsibility to others through delegation.

The author covers the key ingredients for clean delegation:

1. Faith in the one to whom you delegate.
2. Release from the desire to do it better yourself.
3. Relaxation from the obsession that it has to be done your way.
4. Patience in the desire to do it faster yourself.
5. Vision to develop others with your delegation freedom.

Hans provides guidelines for clean delegation. They are

• Choose the qualified people.
• Exhibit confidence.
• Make their duties clear.
• Delegate the proper authority.
• Do not tell them how to do the work.
• Set up accountability points along the way.
• Supervise according to their follow-through style.
• Give them room to fail occasionally.
• Give praise and credit for work well done.

Leadership Mistake # 7 - Communication Chaos:

Hans highlights about the importance of listening as “Nothing stops the progress of an organization more quickly than leaders failing to listen. Like hardening of the arteries, hardening of the categories and a closed mind will destroy a leader’s credibility.”

Under the nuts and bolts of clear communication, Hans outlines the vision and values of the group, the chain of command, organizational charts and job descriptions. Besides, Hans lists out a summary of principles to avoid communication chaos:

1. Make internal communications a top priority of your job.
2. Keep your followers informed as to what you expect of them.
3. Find ways to articulate vision and values.
4. Make sure that formal communication systems are in place.
5. Avoid the great surprise. If people are not doing their jobs well, tell them so.
6. Manage by wandering around.
7. Find ways to tap into the underground within your organization.
8. Practice HOT communication. Honest, Open, and Transparent. “Nothing happens until people talk.”

Leadership Mistake # 8 - Missing the Clues of Corporate Culture:

Hans defines corporate culture as, “The way we do things around here.” As people religiously follow their religions employees follow corporate culture. He starts with a quiz to assess whether an individual runs into the corporate culture.

He provides six reactions to culture conflict. They are:

Conformer – “I’ve just got to accept things the way they are.”
Complainer – “I may have to work here, but I don’t have to like it.”
Innovator – “Let’s change things around here!”
Ritualist – “Job? What job? I’m just going through the motions.”
Retreatist – “I’ve got to get out of this situation ASAP”
Rebel – “They can’t make me conform – I’ll show them!”

He shows the way to harness your corporate culture:

• Put your own culture down on paper
• Come up with your group’s list of corporate values
• Develop a vision statement for your group
• Communicate your culture clearly to insiders and outsiders.

Hans says, “At times, I suspect, God places individuals into organizations where they don’t fit for a reason, either to teach the organization things it needs to learn, or to work on the development of the person who is the poor fit.”

Leadership Mistake # 9 - Success without Successors

“Of all the leadership transition mistakes, two occur most frequently: leaders tend to stay too long in a position rather than not long enough and leaders who stay too long do much more damage than those who don’t stay long enough.” – Lyle Schaller

There are several barriers to successful successors. They are:

1. The organization just doesn’t like the new person.
2. The new person just doesn’t like the organization.
3. There is a corporate culture conflict. Values and beliefs don’t match.
4. The leader falls miserably in his newly assigned responsibilities. He lacks either the ability, capacity, experience, or knowledge to do the job.
5. The old guard sabotages the efforts of the new leader.
6. The old leader sabotages the efforts of the new leader.
7. The old leader fails to leave, or reappears.
8. The new leader lacks persistence to implement change.
9. The new leader is recruited away by a better offer or challenge.
10. The new leader fails to win a following because of poor interpersonal skills.

According to Stanley and Clinton, people who influence the next generation of leaders have these common characteristics:

• The ability to readily see potential in a person.
• Tolerance of mistakes, brashness, abrasiveness, and the like in order to see that potential develop.
• Flexibility in responding to people in circumstances.
• Patience: knowing that time and experience are needed for development.
• Perspective: having vision and ability to see down the road, and to suggest the next steps a mentoree needs to take.
• Gifts and abilities that build up and encourage others.

Leadership Mistake # 10 – Failure to Focus on the Future:

“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” – Charles F. Kettering

Creating vision and direction toward the future is one of the primary tasks of leadership. The leader is responsible to take the lead in planning for the future. He or she must lead the team in developing organizational goals, plans, and strategies that flow out of a crisp purpose or vision statement.

He provides some concrete advice about building for the future:

• Set aside time to think about the future.
• Perform a “vision audit.”
• Develop a fresh vision statement.
• Get together and set short and long-term strategic goals.
• Concentrate and eliminate.
• Read all about it and
• Attempt and expect great things.

The book concludes with the quote of George Bernard Shaw, “I am a dreamer. Some men see things as they are, and ask why; I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Leadership Takeaways:

“Stay one step ahead of your people and you are called a leader. Stay ten steps ahead of your people and you are called a martyr!” – Author unknown

• A good leader learns to read the signs of upness and downness in the countenance of his people.
• An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of good leadership.
• The top-flight leaders really aren’t born, they learn by trial and error. Poor leadership habits and practices can spawn new generations of poor leaders.
• Leadership is basically a people business. Experts confirm that the most effective leaders spend most of their time being with people and solving people problems.
• Dictators’ style is more akin to keeping the workers in the dark, with the lid on the pot.
• The greater the leader’s responsibilities, the more he or she recognizes the intrinsic worth of the followers.
• The higher you go in leadership, the more headaches you bear from other people’s problems.
• Dictators never delegate, they just look for the weak-willed who can implement their every desire.
• Task oriented people tend to want to just get the job done instead of waiting on others to do it through delegation.
• The bigger group, the more attention must be given to communication.
• The more people you lead, the more you must listen. Effective leadership has more to do with listening than with talking.
• Leaders usually find themselves under a constant sense of pressure from more deadlines and responsibilities than they can handle. The image of a soldier in battle comes to mind: Here I stand in the trenches, with bullets flying, planes buzzing overhead, and tanks rolling in our direction. My radio is crackling with news from many fronts. Then along comes one of my people who wants a quiet, long talk about his or her concerns. The intense pressures of leadership sometimes make it very difficult to listen attentively. Therefore, make time for people.
• Anyone who has an interest in leadership or management will run into the concept of “corporate culture” on a regular basis.
• As people religiously follow their religions employees follow corporate culture.
• Success without successors is like a childless couple.
• Effective leaders help their followers feel good about change.
• Leaders are paid to be dreamers. In fact the higher you go in leadership, the more your work is about the future.


The entire book is based on the experiences and anecdotes of author that provide valuable lessons to the readers. It energizes the readers and makes them glued with the book. Hans is successful in connecting with the readers quickly through his conversational tone. The book is easy to understand as the language is very simple and straight for the readers to understand. It is worth investing your time. The book is useful to all managers, leaders, academicians, students and others who like to learn lessons from the mistakes of others.

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