Leadership: A Trend that Nevers Grows Old

From time to time, I like to set aside a blog to look at trends in the world of business books, just to see on what topics authors are focusing their time and research. It’s a great way to measure the hot button issues.

Although there are many topics I could focus on, today I want to return to that old standard – Leadership. This subject has risen above the status of a trend, to become a recurring theme necessary for executives to master.

Although what is said about leadership in these books may include some recurring lessons we’ve seen over the past decades, authors are also intertwining these common-sense lessons with a new twist, with perspectives that are being gained as the world continues to change. Leadership is affected by technology, culture, greater diversity, changing perspectives about how companies related to the outside world, and much more.

Here are a few recent and upcoming leadership books that epitomize how our view of leadership is evolving in a changing world.

4D Leadership by Alan Watkins – Watkins introduces a 4th dimension to leadership – the vertical dimension. Vertical development focuses on being able to think more complexly, systemically, and strategically, whereas horizontal development consists of learning new skills and knowledge.

The Heart Led Leader by Tommy Spaulding – Authentic leaders, Spaulding says, live and lead from the heart.  The values and principles that guide our lives and shape our ability to lead others is far more important than our title, or our ability to crunch numbers, or the impressive degrees we display on our walls.

Lead More, Control Less by Marvin Weisbord & Sandra Janoff – Lead More, Control Less describes eight essential skills for establishing a culture of autonomy and self-leadership. Using examples and case studies, Weisbord and Janoff describe how leaders can share responsibility, defuse group conflicts, show everyone the big picture, and more. With this approach, leaders truly gain more control by giving it up.

Unconventional Leadership by Nancy Schlichting – Unconventional Leadership is a style of leadership based on confronting reality and leading headlong through adversity. In this inspiring story, Nancy Schlichting, the CEO of Henry Ford Health System, reveals her unique strategies that drive success: maintaining a focus on people, creating a culture of innovation and reinvention, and embracing diversity as a key strategy for growth.

These are just four of the many leadership titles coming out in the last quarter of 2015, but they should give you a taste of the ongoing challenges to our view of leadership in this changing world.

More of the Best Business Books of 2015

Leading a business is difficult. We’re in an era when technological breakthroughs are changing whole markets overnight, and where the expectations of employees are much different than in past decades.

Our summaries for this month speak to the challenges of leading in this ever-changing environment.


The High-Speed Company

Creating Urgency and Growth in a Nanosecond Culture

by Jason Jennings & Laurence Haughton

Jason Jennings shares strategies and practices demonstrated by businesses with proven records of creating cultures with strong purpose, trust and follow-through. Jennings details the key traits of these high-speed companies and how they outperform others, ultimately showing how to build and sustain one of your own.


Make It Matter

How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning

by Scott Mautz

Scott Mautz reveals that fostering meaning at work by giving workers a greater sense of significance is the key to motivation and engagement. By making work matter, people become more committed to their jobs, which positively influences productivity, products and personal satisfaction. Mautz offers tools and plans to create meaning in and at work.


The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz tells it straight as he shares insights gained from developing, managing, selling, buying investing in and supervising technology companies. He offers techniques for navigating the struggle of being a leader and explains why you should take care of the people, the products and the profits, in that order.

If you’re a Soundview subscriber, check out your new titles in your online library today. And if not, click on a title to purchase it; or perhaps now is the time to Subscribe and get these great titles and much more to strengthen your leader skills.





How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter


Good leaders become great by skillfully managing their own vulnerabilities. Leadership Blindspots is a comprehensive guide to recognizing and acting on the weak points that can impair effectiveness, diminish results and harm a career.

The blindspot risk is that leaders fail to respond to weaknesses or threats due to a variety of factors, including the complexity of their organizations, over-confidence in their own capabilities, and being surrounded by deferential subordinates. Leadership Blindspots provides a useful model for understanding how blindspots operate and why they persist, but at the same time suggests real, actionable steps to improvement. Author Robert Bruce Shaw details a range of techniques that make blindspots stand out in sharp relief, so action can be taken before severe damage occurs — to a leader or his or her company.

The one characteristic great leaders share is the constant desire for self-improvement. Good can always be better. Some weaknesses and threats are blindspots because they are invisible to the individual but have the potential to wreak havoc on one’s reputation and long-term success. Identifying and fixing crucial problems is the leader’s job, and sometimes the most debilitating problems are with the leaders themselves. Leadership Blindspots is the first step toward owning and addressing one’s vulnerabilities and, as a result, becoming a more effective leader.


  • Why blindspots and strengths often come from the same source.
  • How to balance confidence and humility in leadership.
  • The 20 most common blindspots in which leaders lack awareness.
  • How to overcome blindspots in individuals, teams, organizations and markets.

Not a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber? Then click on the individual title to purchase and download it right now to begin learning these critical business skills.

Discover and Develop Greatness


Think you can spot the leaders in your company? Don’t assume that you can identify them by their positions. What about those employees who consistently step up: the field agent who solves a previously intractable problem; the service rep who thinks outside the box and creates unshakeable customer loyalty.

These are more than “good employees.” These are “hidden leaders,” and they are critical to an organization’s long-term success. Managers today need to make the most of all their resources, and The Hidden Leader , by Scott Edinger and Laurie Sain, shows them how to recognize and cultivate these talented but under-utilized employees, who demonstrate integrity, lead through authentic relationships, focus on results, work from clear customer purpose and fulfill the value promise of the company.

Supported by real-world examples of hidden leaders in action, The Hidden Leader helps managers discover these secret saviors and enable them to deliver even greater value to customers.

In This Summary You Will Learn:

  • To recognize and nurture hidden leaders in your organization.
  • The four facets of hidden leadership.
  • Why integrity is non-negotiable in hidden leadership.
  • The difference between customer service and customer purpose.
  • How to engage hidden leaders at the individual and organizational levels.



The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead


Business schools, leadership gurus and strategy guides agree — leaders must have a vision. But the sad truth is that most don’t…or at least not one that compels, inspires
and energizes their people. How can something so essential be practiced so little in real life? Vision may sound like a rare quality, unattainable by all except a select few — but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone can expand their visionary capacity. You just need to learn how.

In Anticipate, strategy and leadership expert Rob-Jan de Jong explains that to develop
vision you must sharpen two key skills. The first is the ability to see things early — spotting
the first hints of change on the horizon. The second is the power to connect the
dots — turning those clues into a gripping story about the future of your organization
and industry. Packed with stories and practices, Anticipate provides proven techniques for
looking ahead and exploring many plausible futures, including the author’s trademarked
Future Priming process, which helps distinguish signal from noise.

You will discover how to tap into your imagination and open yourself to the unconventional,
become better at seeing things early, frame the big-picture view that provides
direction for the future, and communicate your vision in a way that engages others and
provokes action. When you anticipate change before your competitors, you create enormous strategic advantage. That’s what visionaries do … and now so can you.

Part I: Visionary Content

The Groundwork
Creating a vision requires ideas, ideally intriguing and refreshing ideas that trigger people’s interest, curiosity and excitement. It requires engagement with your imagination and an ability to think outside the clichéd box.

Tapping into Your Imagination
Without imagination, you are stating the obvious or holding on to the status quo; your  vision falls flat. With it, however, your vision becomes intriguing, exciting, refreshing.
Suddenly, it has the potential to energize and mobilize.

Part II: Visionary Practices

Developing Your Visionary Capacity
The potential to come up with — and hold on to and cultivate — a brilliant idea or a vision is within all of us. Visionary leadership isn’t a personality trait, although it is sometimes confused with concepts like charismatic leadership. The big question is how. How do you go about developing this crucial leadership competence?

Seeing Things Early
We’re not aiming to become accurate, or even good, predictors of the future. Instead, we’re working to develop an increased awareness of changing realities, building
antennas for the distant signals that might push the future in a different direction from the one we currently and conventionally foresee. We can then become better at recognizing those signals and their potential impact when they present themselves in some early form. Your ability to see things early is at the heart of what leadership expert Warren Bennis calls adaptive capacity.

Connecting the Dots
In addition to strengthening the ability to see things early, we must equally improve our ability to create a coherent story going forward. This coherent story must consist of what we expect, foresee, envision, and anticipate. It needs to resonate, make sense, and be the guiding light into the future for our followers. I call this second developmental dimension of visionary capacity the ability to connect the dots.

Part III: Your Visionary Self

Your Visionary Self
Author Warren Bennis promotes an integrated perspective on leadership, consisting of four essential competencies: vision, adaptive capacity, voice, and integrity. Here we’ll explore the relationship between your visionary capacity and Bennis’ concepts of voice and integrity — the identity-oriented aspects.

Mindful Behavior
Leading with authenticity also means you must practice what you preach. The best evidence of your true feelings and beliefs comes less from your words than from your
deeds. When your words are believably connected to what you do, when you behave in line with your vision, only then do you display integrity and build trust with your followers.

Part IV: Visionary Communication

Igniting Your Followers
You can have great ideas, make the powerful practices second nature, have clarity on your core purpose and values, and exercise the right behaviors for growth. But if you are unable to communicate your vision in a way that engages and energizes others, the Vision Thing still won’t work for you. There are several specific visionary communication qualities that, when done right, will transform your story from something future-oriented but technical and uninspiring to something that invigorates your followers.


Is There An iPod Equivalent In Yahoo’s Future?

Marissa Mayer knows how to throw a party. The controversial CEO of Yahoo! once threw a flannel-themed Christmas party at her Palo Alto home (she also has a penthouse apartment in the Four Seasons) that featured not only shipped-in snow but also a backyard ice-skating rink almost large enough for NHL games. At some point during the party, as recorded in Nicholas Carlson’s book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!, a pajama-clad Mayer climbed aboard a mini Zamboni she had rented for the occasion, and set out to smooth out the ice that had become cut up by her ice-skating guests. “It was a comical, cheerful scene, and another host might have laughed and waved at her guests as she rode the funny-looking Zamboni in her pj’s,” Carlson writes. “Not Mayer. She was very serious. Sitting on top of the big machine, she concentrated on the ice beneath her. She wanted to smooth over every inch. She was going to get the job done herself and be excellent about it.”

As Carlson describes in his book, the Christmas scene reflects the personality of Mayer: hands-on, serious and driven to excellence — which in the minds of many Yahoo employees and former employees translates, writes Carlson, into “micromanaging, bottlenecking and dictatorial.”

In many ways, the cover of this book is misleading. Despite the photograph of Mayer and her name in bigger type than the rest of the title, this is, surprisingly, more a book about Yahoo than about Mayer. After a brief prologue, readers don’t run into Mayer again until more than 130 pages later, when, in part II of his book he describes Mayer’s early life and career at Google. Part III of the book returns to the behind-the-scenes battles between activist shareholders and Yahoo executives that dominate much of the early part of the book. Marissa Mayer finally enters the Yahoo! building for the first time nearly 250 pages in, giving Carlson less than 100 pages to cover Mayer’s two years (so far) at the helm of Yahoo!

In those 100 pages, Carlson narrates in engaging detail the ups and downs of Mayer’s first two years at Yahoo! For example, Mayer sent shock waves in the progressive hi-tech industry when she abolished Yahoo’s work-at-home policy. At the same time, Mayer replaced employees’ Blackberries with more up-to-date smart phones, and, in a bid to introduce transparency, started staff meetings in which she and her executives answered questions from employees. Mayer bet heavily on mobile apps and on digital magazines, hiring Katie Couric and others to create momentum that never materialized. On a more positive note, she acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, a record for a social media company at the time and an acquisition that in some ways has helped keep Yahoo! relevant.

Self-Inflicted Problems

A number of Mayer’s problems seem self-inflicted, including, according to Carlson, her inability to hire effective executives and her unfeeling interactions with her subordinates. The dictatorial, micromanaging style, as many employees see it, can demoralize a workforce whose morale, according to Carlson, is already badly hit by another Mayer initiative, the quarterly performance reviews (QPRs) that have echoes of Jack Welch’s infamous rank-and-yank employee policies at GE. Inevitably pitting employee against employee, the QPRs discourage collaboration and encourage cut-throat competition: it’s better that your colleague looks bad and gets the bad reviews; otherwise it will be you.

Mayer had an enormous advantage as she began her new position as CEO: a guaranteed two years in which the company’s financial health was assured by Yahoo’s prescient stake in the groundbreaking Chinese company, Alibaba, whose anticipated IPO in the fall of 2014 netted Yahoo a cool $8.3 billion windfall. (Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba, now worth $39.5 billion, was spun off into a separate company in January 2015, after the book was published.)

The question remains whether Mayer can make Yahoo! into the dominant Internet player it once was. Marissa Mayer, Carlson writes, points to the five years that Steve Jobs took to revitalize Apple, with the creation of the iPod. Is there an iPod equivalent in Yahoo’s future? For Carlson, the verdict is still out. The outcome depends in large part on the patience of the activist shareholders who pushed out several CEOs prior to Mayer.

How to Lead Breakthrough Change Against Any Odds


Change is a constant, and leaders must do more than keep up — they must innovate and accelerate to succeed. Yet people are often unnerved by change. As a leader during a time of transformation, you may stand up before teams that are indifferent, or even hostile, and need to convince them that change is necessary and urgent. What does it take to be an effective change leader and increase the odds of success?

Stacking the Deck presents a nine-step course of action leaders can follow from
the first realization that change is needed through all the steps of implementation,
including assembling the right team of close advisors and getting the word out to
the wider group. Based on Dave Pottruck’s experiences leading change as CEO of
Charles Schwab and later as chairman of CorpU and HighTower Advisors, these
steps provide a guide to ensure that your change initiative and your team have the
best possible shot at success.

Leading an organization through major change — whether it’s the introduction
of a new product, an expansion to a new territory or a difficult downsizing — is
not for the faint of heart. While success is never guaranteed, the right leadership,
process, and team make all the difference. For all leaders facing major change in
their organizations, Stacking the Deck is an indispensable resource for putting the
odds in your favor.

The nine crucial steps for creating breakthrough change in your organization:

Step One: Establishing the Need to Change and a Sense of Urgency

In leading breakthrough change, we must first convince others — those to whom we report and those on our team — that our proposed change has a positive, necessary
and urgent purpose.

Step Two: Assembling and Unifying Your Team

Leaders must rely on a well-balanced leadership team. It’s your job to actively develop and unify a group that will guide the organization in making your change a reality. You are looking for pioneers, for people who are comfortable with a greater degree of risk than
the average person.

Step Three: Developing and Communicating a Clear and Compelling Vision of the Future

Once you have your leadership team in place, you and your team need to be ready to envision and communicate the future in such a vivid and irresistible way that everyone
around you understands your vision and shares your passion for it.

Step Four: Planning Ahead for Known and Unknown Barriers

The fourth step in the Stacking the Deck process is all about anticipating problems as you are planning, and confronting these problems before they derail your efforts.

Step Five: Creating a Workable Plan

Now you need to translate the inspiring vision of the future that you and your team have developed into a workable, real-world plan.

Step Six: Partitioning the Project and Building Momentum With Early Wins

Leading breakthrough change often means working toward an end that seems distant and out of focus. If your people can’t visualize the future in real terms, they’ll find it difficult to muster the urgency to undertake the journey. You therefore need ways to make the immediate steps clear and to help people — particularly those who may not have been involved in developing the vision but who will be crucial to its realization — see the path to the future in real, concrete terms.

Step Seven: Defining Metrics, Developing Analytics and Communicating Results

To define success for your initiative you need to focus on measurable outcomes. People need to see the end result with such clarity that they can act on their own.

Step Eight: Assessing, Recruiting and Empowering the Team

This builds on the work you did in Step Two. At this point, you might want to revisit and repeat some of those initial team-building actions.

Step Nine: Testing with Pilots to Increase Success

Defining a precise set of rules about how to roll out your next breakthrough initiative is impossible: the potential projects are simply too diverse. Nevertheless, appropriate
and careful use of pilot projects is a consistent thread in successful rollouts; pilots can dramatically enhance your prospects for success.

Book Review: Bringing Strategy Back


by Jeffrey Sampler

When the world of business is so chaotic, leaders need strategy more than ever. However, the business environment is changing too quickly for conventional strategic planning processes. In Bringing Strategy Back, Sampler explains why strategy is more important than ever for your business. Strategy expert Jeffrey Sampler introduces four “strategic shock absorbers” that enable leaders to build resilient organizations that can withstand even the most unexpected global turbulence.

With four “strategic shock absorbers,” leaders all around the world at organizations of any size and type can build strong organizations that withstand chaos and instability. Based on the Sampler’s in-depth research into the world’s most unstable markets, these strategic shock absorbers work together in an ongoing process that can be applied to any organization: Accuracy, Agility, Momentum and Foresight. Of the four, agility helps leaders deliver with speed and flexibility in terms of strategic options. Leaders need to be able to act quickly using agility in unpredictable markets.

Businesses can’t afford to become stagnant in their strategic process in order to survive and thrive. Sampler says that giving up the old way of strategic planning can seem risky; however customizing the best approach for your business will make a positive difference. With this new framework, Bringing Strategy Back shows how to be prepared and proactive, rather than reactive, even when the future is uncertain.

Book Review: Leadership 2030

by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell

by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell

It used to be enough for a business leader to attempt to research and anticipate trends in business. Two executives from Hay Group, Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell, make a strong argument for the importance of analyzing megatrends. In their book Leadership 2030, Vielmetter and Sell provide six megatrends that will have a profound impact on the way you lead your business in the future. This book is now available as a Soundview Executive Book Summary.

Understanding megatrends begins with gaining a grasp of the concept itself. While the authors define megatrend as, “a long-term, transformational process with global reach, broad scope and a fundamental and dramatic impact,” their collaboration with research partner Z_punkt used the filters of time, reach and impact to shape the six megatrends.

Leadership 2030 provides essential observations about each of the six megatrends. Whether the megatrend discussed is new to executives (such as Individualization and Value Pluralism) or a concentrated reexamination of an existing idea (the environmental crisis), the authors strike at the heart of the issue and explain both the reasons for the megatrend’s existence and how you, as a leader, will need to react.

After covering the six megatrends, Vielmetter and Sell describe a set of five key reinforcers (which they define as “consequences driven and strengthened by several megatrends at once) and four significant dilemmas. This solidifies the authors’ belief that the megatrends are not individual issues incubating on their own. Faced with the daunting task of leading in the face of the perfect storm described by Vielmetter and Sell, Leadership 2030 concludes with a portrait of the Altrocentric Leader, an individual who is able to unite and empower those around him or her to find innovative solutions to the challenges ahead. A good first step for tomorrow’s Altrocentric Leaders is to read (and re-read) Vielmetter and Sell’s book.

Building Lasting Value in Business and Life


Who Are You Becoming?

For business coach and psychologist Andrew Thorn, the goal in life should not be to achieve a work/life balance that he believes was never meant to exist. After all, as he writes in his inspirational new book, Leading with Your Legacy in Mind: Building Lasting Value in Business and Life, work is about quantity (salaries, financial results, purchases you can afford), while life is about quality; and no matter what we do, we will spend most of our waking hours on work.

Instead of an impossible and unnecessary work/life balance, Thorn argues that it is better to strive to achieve a legacy that emerges from making the most of both life and work. The term “legacy” is often misunderstood, he writes. Legacy is also, like life, measured as a quality, not a quantity. “It is measured by what we learn and by who we become as a result of our learnings,” he writes, not by “quantities of stuff we accumulate.” Instead of something that is simply left behind, legacy is something that is created every day and that “encompasses your past, present and future.”

In short, he explains, your legacy “is not about what you are doing or about how much money you are making. Instead, it is about who you are becoming and how you are influencing others to live up to their own legacy.”

Why Purpose Is Better Than Passion

Having established the concept of legacy as a journey rather than the left-behinds of a life, Thorn helps map that journey through 10 “legacy arcs” that move us in the right direction. At the left side of each arc are the behaviors and tendencies that, he writes, “makes us attractive to our employers, peers and direct reports, but… do not shape our impact or create our legacy.” For that, he urges us to move to the behaviors and tendencies on the right side of the arc.

For example, instead of passion, which can lead to obsession, excess, a lack of control, and a distraction from other important facets of our lives, Thorn proposes a focus on purpose. Purpose is a much more reliable guide, he writes, because “it gives us the ‘why’ for what we do each day… Purpose gives us the focus we need in order to ensure that the work we are doing is aligned with our priorities.”

The arc from passion to purpose is the first of four legacy arcs that helps us align who we are as leaders with our deepest desires and priorities. The other three alignment arcs are change to growth, goals to aspirations and balance to focus. For collaboration and connecting “our hopes and strengths with those of the people we collaborate with in the workplace,” Thorn proposes a shift from accepting to understanding, discussion to dialogue and listening to hearing.

The final three legacy arcs — from success to significance, ambition to meaning and growing older to growing whole — help us understand the true purpose of our work, he writes. “This makes it possible for us to see the big picture so that we can use our enlightened understanding to better identify how our work-related actions are contributing to our leadership legacy.” To solidify the practical lessons of these chapters, Thorn uses numerous real-world examples and finishes each chapter with “key leadership lessons” and a leadership questionnaire.

Journey Through the Four Seasons

Of course, no one acts in a vacuum. In the third section of the book, Thorn discusses through the metaphor of the four seasons the environmental conditions and circumstances that affect our legacy-making efforts: our early “spring” years of followership; the middle “summer” years when we’re assigned formal leadership jobs; and eventually the “fall” time of harvest, when we gather the fruits of our work for sustaining purposes and, Thorn writes, “share our yield with others through carefully selected acts of service.” Then comes the dormant “winter” period, a time of renewal or satisfied retirement.

For readers of personal development or inspirational books, many of the terms such as “growth” or “dialogue” or even “significance” in Leading with Your Legacy in Mind will likely be familiar. Yet, Thorn’s insightful and sometimes contrarian approach to leadership legacy combined with the clarity and succinctness of his framework will make the most jaded readers sit and rethink whether it’s time to reset their professional priorities and goals.