Sunday, August 1, 2010

Prof.M.S.Rao’s Book Review Titled “Leadership Secrets” Authored By Michael Heath

The book titled ‘Leadership Secrets’ by Michael Heath (Publishers Collins) is a tiny one with valuable takeaways about the secrets of leadership. The book breaks the ice with research finding, “Over the last 50 years there have been over 1,000 studies to establish what leadership is. How leaders behave.” Michael Heath provides several tips, tools and techniques throughout the book that reveals the leadership mantras for success. We shall look at the same.

Tips to Build Your Confidence:

· Project a positive attitude.
· Maintain appropriate eye contact.
· Watch those hands.
· Prepare thoroughly for any task.
· Dress confidently.
· Choose your opinions carefully.
· Notice any feelings of vulnerability.

Steps to Create Enthusiasm:

1. Maintain an optimistic outlook.
2. Find people who share the same passion.
3. Control your emotions when faced with disappointment.
4. Allow people to experience temporary lows.
5. Concentrate on what can be done.
6. Never let your enthusiasm interfere with your objectivity.

Tips for Your Personality Development:

· Take personal responsibility for your own growth. It’s not the training team or HR’s responsibility. It’s yours.
· Develop a plan that identifies key areas you want to know more about. Keep a learning log where you make notes of important lessons from any book, CD, programme or conversation.
· Get yourself a mentor. Someone who can facilitate your learning.
· Broaden your reading. Don’t just read the same publications. Go for something that’s different. Shake up your thinking.
· Regularly ask yourself, “What have I learned today?” Don’t settle for the obvious. Think about issues in a deeper way.
· Really listen to someone with whom you’re having a disagreement. Ask questions about their point of view. Don’t just turn off! You may emerge with a real insight.
· Tap into other people’s experiences. How have they done things? Be a sponge and absorb all of that free education.

The book outlines the expectations of the companies from their leaders such as

· Look to the future and anticipate how you think things will look.
· Decide how your team or department should position itself to meet this future.
· Turn this abstract future into something concrete. Describe it in outcomes, challenges and tasks. Plan the journey. Set out milestones along the route of the journey.
· Describe this future and journey to your team.
· Motivate your team towards this future.
· Agree concrete action.
· Make sure you keep people on the right journey.
· Evaluate the journey as you all walk along it.

Michael reveals six factors identified by the psychologists Litwin and Stringer that influence working environment. They are:

· Its flexibility – that is, how free are employees to innovate?
· What sense of responsibilities do employees have to the organization?
· What level of standards are people set?
· How accurate and detailed is performance feedback?
· How clear are people about the company’s mission and values?
· What level of commitment do the team have to the common purpose?

People with humility behave as follows:

1. They are genuinely open to the views of others.
2. When they know they’re not right, they concede.
3. They are open about their faults to others.
4. They’re ready to ‘roll up their sleeves’ with the rest.
5. They don’t let their opinion take precedence over others’ opinions.
6. They’re gracious when others are praised over them.
7. They don’t equate possessions with worth. They prefer to judge people by who they are – not what they own.

The book outlines seven proven ways to make sure you’re approachable to people.

1. Have time for people.
2. Approach people.
3. Be aware of your body language.
4. Smile.
5. Don’t just talk about work.
6. Listen, listen, listen!
7. Give out genuine compliments.

When you make a tough decision, consider the following:

· Decide if it’s really your decision.
· Do your research.
· Identify the choices before you.
· Look for assistance from other skilled decision makers.
· Take your time.
· Consider the timing of your decision.
· Think about your beliefs and values.

The author differentiates between managers and leaders such as:

1. Managers plan detail; leaders set direction.
2. Managers focus on getting work completed; leaders focus on leading the people.
3. Managers create stability; leaders create change.
4. Managers have short-term horizons; leaders have long-term horizons.

It mentions the book written by Richard Wiseman titled, ‘The Luck Factor’ that defines four attributes of people who take responsibility – not only for their work, but also for their lives. They are: They frequently find chance opportunities, listen to their hunches, persevere in the face of failure and finally, they turn back luck into good fortune.

It states Gary Yukl’s book titled, ‘Leadership in Organizations’ that defines vision as, “An image of what can be achieved, why it is worthwhile, and how it can be done.” Below are some pointers to help create that vision:

· It must be concise.
· It must describe an attractive destination.
· It must have conviction.
· It must be realistic.
· It must be adaptable. It must be easy to understand.

The book unveils the techniques while receiving feedback such as:

1. Listen carefully and don’t react or get defensive.
2. If you hear something you disagree with, ask for more information – don’t just justify or defend.
3. Control any anger you might feel. Otherwise you will just close the feedback loop off.
4. Don’t think ahead about how to deal with the situation during the feedback. You might miss something crucial.
5. Be detached. Treat the information in an unemotional way.
6. Explore any underlying reasons why the feedback took the form it did.

Tools to Manage Ambiguity:

· Accept ambiguity as one component of a leader’s life.
· Get into the habit of planning and thinking ahead.
· Know that perfection is rare: We all make mistakes from time to time.
· Trust and delegate.
· Don’t expect to complete one task before moving onto another.
· Don’t get caught up in the small stuff.

Creativity vs. Innovation:

The book differentiates between creativity and innovation. Arnold Wasserman, chairman of the Idea Factory, describes innovation as “… taking creative ideas and bringing them into the world”. Creativity is the inventive part. Innovation is applying the creativity practically to the real world. The author created acronym SCAMPER, an idea generation tool where it stands for substitute, combine, adapt, modify-magnify-minify, put to other uses, eliminate and rearrange or reverse.

Techniques to Tackle Organizational Politics:

· Be yourself.
· Network with all in your circle of influence.
· Control your verbal responses.
· Communicate upwards with the same skill you communicate down.
· Get skilled at influencing.
· Observe others.

Michael unveils six great techniques for creating influence with others. They are: be clear about what you want, open ‘emotional bank accounts’ with colleagues, regularly interact with the people you’re going to influence, use ‘pull’ influencing behaviors, understand others’ objectives and long-term goals and look for the ‘win-win’. In addition, he outlines tips for effective networking. They are: set yourself a networking goal, build trust, ask more questions than you answer, always stay positive, be generous and always introduce yourself to anyone who is on their own.

Michael provides ten excellent tools to become a successful speaker. They are: prepare thoroughly, practice, get them listening from the outset, relax, don’t fiddle, be enthusiastic, don’t overuse PowerPoint, involve the audience, make sure your ‘call to action’ is last, and deal with questions. At the time of practice, it is essential to run through the entire presentation twice. Rehearse the opening five minutes repeatedly until it’s perfect. A great opening will build confidence. A passionate, enthusiastic speaker can make every mistake in the book and still be listened to attentively by their audience. Be enthusiastic and they’ll hear every word!

Michael reveals the rules for good written communication. They are: use vocabulary that everyone understands, never trust a spell checker, avoid slang, don’t use idioms, only use abbreviations the reader will understand, spell people’s names correctly, and write short sentences. The book concludes with ten important teleconferencing techniques:

· Use your voice effectively.
· Follow the normal rules of conducting a meeting.
· Introduce yourself and the meeting purpose.
· Ensure everyone introduces themselves at the start.
· Remind everyone of the ground rules.
· Don’t allow one speaker to dominate.
· Use names to bring people in.
· Keep it democratic.
· Stick to the timescale.
· Close the teleconference professionally.
Above all, it is always important to cover three five points thoroughly rather than cover more items superficially.

Great Quotes:

It contains excellent quotes of Einstein, Norman Schwarzkopf, Vince Lombardi, Stephen Covey, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, G.K.Chesterton, Mahatma Gandhi, Confucius, Heraclitus, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Peter Senge, Ram Charan, Martin Luther King Jr, Ralph Nader, George Patton and others. They are:

“When you stop learning, you start dying.” - Einstein.
“The main ingredient of good leadership is good character. This is because leadership involves conduct and conduct is determined by values.” - Norman Schwarzkopf
“Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. It is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action.” - Vince Lombardi, the American football coach, about mental toughness
“The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions” - Stephen Covey
“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela, South African political leader
“Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it all others depend.” - Winston Churchill
“Great leaders leave their values in the hearts of those who worked for them.”
“It is always the secure who are humble.” – G.K.Chesterton, English writer and journalist
“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher.” – Chinese proverb
Abraham Zaleznik, a respected theorist on the subject of leadership thought that the role of a leader was like “ … an artist, scientist, and creative thinker as opposed to a manager”.
“We must become the change we want to see.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“You manage things; you lead people” – Grace Murray Hopper, pioneer computer scientist.
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” – Japanese proverb
“Sit by the river long enough … your enemies will float by.” – Confucius, Ancient Chinese sage
“If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm you will be fired with enthusiasm.” – Vince Lombardi, American football coach
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” – African proverb
“Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.” – JC Watts, US Congressman
“All is flux; nothing stays still” – Heraclitus, Ancient Greek philosopher
“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.” – Louis Pasteur, French chemist
“Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher
“Some are destined to succeed, some are determined to succeed. – H.H.Swami Tejomayananda, Indian spiritual leader
“We learn best from our experience, but we never directly experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions.” - Peter Senge
“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore Hesburg, American activist Catholic priest
“It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” – Vance Havner, American revivalist preacher
“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, American author and physician.
“Business acumen is an insightful assessment of the external business landscape with the keen awareness of how money can be made and then executing the strategy to deliver the desired results” – Ram Charan
“Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Consensus asks the question: Is it popular? Conscience asks: Is it right?” – Martin Luther King Jr, American civil rights leader
“Mentor: someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.” – Anonymous
“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity and humanity.” – William Zinsser, American Writer and Editor
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader, American attorney and activist
“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” – George Patton, US General
“Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” – Plutarch, Ancient Greek historian and philosopher
“The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B” – James Yorke, American mathematician.

50 Leadership Secrets:

The book contains 50 leadership secrets that are spread over seven chapters.
1. The moral courage needed to follow your principles and take difficult decisions will inspire your team.
2. Mental toughness is the determination to carry on against the odds to achieve success.
3. Self-discipline means denying yourself you want to do and doing what you need to do.
4. Authenticity is when your declared values correspond with your demonstrated values.
5. Good posture and appropriate eye contact project confidence to others.
6. Passion is contagious and can spread rapidly through a team.
7. Impatience can often waste more time, especially having to repair the problems our impatience caused.
8. People who fake personal warmth can appear insincere and patronizing.
9. Self-development keeps our skills relevant in a constantly evolving workplace.
10. A work-life balance will constantly change according to different factors in your home and working life.
11. You must anticipate the future and prepare your team to meet it.
12. Managers concentrate on detail whilst leaders concentrate on change.
13. The best leaders know which style to employ to create the best team climate.
14. Be prepared to reassume command when difficult situations develop.
15. Humility is about thinking about ourselves less.
16. Being approachable ensures that all feedback channels remain open to you.
17. You have to be able to view the strategy in its entirety and see how all parts of it interconnect.
18. Your strategy must show how it will contribute to the company’s long-term organizational strategy.
19. Present the key elements of your strategy with a one-page overview that will make it available to everyone.
20. All strategies hit obstacles, so be ready to act quickly when they do.
21. Leaders with business acumen know their territory and how to thrive in it.
22. Avoid making hasty, ill-informed decisions. The most difficult ones are those that affect people’s lives.
23. Make sure your team delivers.
24. The size and solidity of a roadblock often depend on the mindset of the person viewing it.
25. Change your focus from a departmental one to that of working together to achieve a shared organizational goal.
26. Reserve your battles for the issues that are vital to your goals.
27. Recruit people with the ability to choose the right response from a range of possibilities.
28. When upset by underperformance, respond with a question. Always avoid emotionally driven reactions.
29. Anticipate harmful conflict, but encourage passionate debate.
30. Your vision must set out the destination you want to reach and why it’s worth reaching.
31. You have to convince people why they need to stop their current practices.
32. Denial and resistance are normal stages employees go through when struggling with change.
33. Highlight any interim successes to keep motivation high and maintain the momentum of change.
34. Bring resistance to change out into the open, reassure people that it is only natural and then move on.
35. Accurate feedback allows you to identify emerging problems early and react quicker.
36. You must accept ambiguity as an essential factor in any leadership role.
37. Innovation is applying a creative solution in a practical way.
38. Understand the political levers that exist in your organization and the people who pull them.
39. Opening emotional bank accounts with key people is vital for exerting greater influence.
40. A rule of building great networks is ‘givers gain’.
41. Planning is the most crucial stage of any negotiation.
42. Don’t switch off because you disagree something the other speaker says.
43. Practice takes the pain out of presenting.
44. Your written communication reveals a lot about you, so deserves special care.
45. An empowered team makes decisions that have real impact on the success of the organization.
46. Challenge people and get them deeply involved in the work they do.
47. Challenge your team’s traditional ways of doing things to prevent them from falling into the trap of ‘groupthink’.
48. To mentor a future leader, develop their ability to think for themselves.
49. Give equal weight to the needs of all the members of the team.
50. Keep the conference lively and try to get everyone to participate.

Leadership Takeaways:

· Leadership is about taking the long view.
· Being able to display confidence, even during difficult periods, gives confidence to the team and keeps morale high.
· Enthusiasm and passion are two emotions leaders must possess. What’s so different about passion and enthusiasm is that they are not taught but caught.
· Impatient people do not choose their conflicts wisely and suffer as a result. In contrast, patience involves assessing opportunities and seeing if that’s what they really are. We must patiently take people with us.
· Take the time to understand the political environment we work in. Retain a cool perspective and make sure that short-term activities really do contribute to our long-term goals.
· A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be liked.
· The leaders of 21st century must be able to see the clouds and forecast in which way the business winds are blowing.
· When the sea gets choppy, only the strongest can keep that tiller steady.
· Whenever your strategies hit obstacles you really have three choices such as: you alter the delivery date, you change tactics and you change the strategy.
· When someone tells you they can’t overcome the roadblock, they’re right. Their ‘self-talk’ is preventing them. An internal dialogue presenting them with reason after reason why something’s not going to happen.
· A large army can be fighting on several fronts. The challenge for the leader is to know where to direct their forces.
· Choose carefully which battles you intend to fight. Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning. Fighting every battle may earn you a reputation as a confrontational person. It also can create enemies of people you’re going to need further down the road. So decide the two or three vital battles you need to win.
· Everyone underperforms at one time or another.
· People who fear the unknown or doubt their abilities have a survival anxiety.
· The test of listening is learning. Many people don’t listen. What they’re really doing is just confirming information they already know. Emotions are often more important than words. They represent the real core of a message. Words are often just a thin layer of meaning that sits on top.
· While forming a team, it is essential to: surprise people with real challenges, use stretch goals, get to know what motivates each individual, bring them into your world and get people deeply involved.
· KFC’s Colonel Sanders has the combination of passion and patience. He experienced 1,009 rejections before the first restaurant agreed to sell his chicken.
· When new people come on board, fire them up with the same zeal. They’ll pick up the message quickly and make a real contribution to maintaining the impetus of the change.

Research Findings:

The book reveals the research findings from the book titled, ‘Culture and Leadership across the World’ about decision-making. It showed that the most difficult decisions are related to personal matters (46%). Second were economic and financing decisions (18%). Last came, legal ambiguities (16%) and organizational conflicts (6%). The difficult decisions were those associated with the future of people.

A recent global productivity report found that employees were spending more than a third of their time on unproductive activities. That’s the equivalent of 1.7 days a week on stuff that doesn’t deliver!

Research found that six distinctive leadership styles had profound effect on working environment and that only the best leaders knew when to use the right style to have the greatest positive impact:

· Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance.
· Authoritative leaders mobilize people towards a vision.
· Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony.
· Democratic leaders build consensus through participation.
· Pace-setting leaders expect excellence and self-direction.
· Coaching leaders develop people for the future.

Studies show that even the best managers only make the correct decision 65% of the time. Finally, it reveals the arguments of Peter Senge who asserts that much of management and leadership theory is simplistic.


The book contains excellent motivational and inspirational quotes that provide you food for thought. It contains several research findings. It reveals the author’s wealth of knowledge. The author is an excellent writer who writes with action verbs and conveys the content in simple sentences. The ideas and insights in the book are well punched. To conclude, it is a tiny book with excellent takeaways. It is a good book that deserves to be widely read.

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