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Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Leadership Excellence" (Pat Williams)

TITLE: Leadership Excellence: The Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century
AUTHOR: Pat Williams with Jim Denney
PUBLISHER: Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2011, (320 pages)

This is a treasure of leadership teachings, tips, techniques, and tales about how leaders excel in the 21st Century. Written by a person who learns leadership through his parents, and through the school of hard knocks, Williams shares generously his insights over the years. For the author, leadership is a three-legged stool: viewing onself as a leader, preparing to be a leader, and stepping up to be a leader.As a sports management consultant, an experienced leader in the Disney organization, and now a leadership consultant, Williams draws on his experience and learnings from 700 other leadership books to give us a concise book on seven important sides of leadership. An outstanding leader will have or aim to have:

  1. Vision
  2. Communication
  3. People skills
  4. Character
  5. Competence
  6. Boldness
  7. Serving Heart.
One's leadership can be excellent with these traits which are all learnable. For Williams, leadership is all about lifetime learning and practicing leadership excellence.

1) Vision
Leadership is essentially about the future, and this is concisely captured in the vision that powers the mission. He cites leaders like Cyrus the Great who builds his empire based on tolerance and diversity. He talks about Sam Walton's vision for Walmart, Steve Jobs for Apple, Richard Branson for Virgin, and many more. There are three vital traits of visionary leadership. Firstly, vision helps to keep one focused. Secondly, it keeps one fueled. Thirdly, it helps one to finish. He then goes on to show ways in which leaders can build vision.

2) Communication
In order to be a great leader, one needs to be a great communicator. Vision is no good unless it can be effectively communicated. Williams hones in on 6 principles:

  1. Believe in the power of communication
  2. Communicate so that people understand
  3. Communicate optimism
  4. Communicate hope
  5. Communicate to motivate and inspire
  6. Become a storyteller
3) People Skills
Relationships. People essentially do not care until they know that the leader cares about them. For Williams, love can be learned. For Williams, he describes:

"People skills are simply the learnable skills that enable you, the leader, to understand the people you lead, to empathize with them, and to build harmonious relationships with them. People skills are the social skills that enable you to get along with people, to negotiate with people, to avoid and resolve conflict with people, and to interact with people in a way that is mutually beneficial." (120)

4) Character
Williams calls 'character' indispensable to leadership. It is through times of testing, that our character will tough it through, to do the right thing, and to live with integrity. One of the helpful ways he gives is the accountability covenants. Covenants of confidentiality, of time, of honesty, and of prayer.

5) Competence
Leaders are made, not born. That is why it is important to continue to train and be competent in what we are called to do. Competence is defined as "the ability to perform the leadership role in a highly effective way." Williams then goes on to describe 15 leadership competencies. Each competency described comes with loads of precious nuggets of wisdom from the many different leadership gurus in the different industries.

6) Boldness
Leadership means not shrinking back from responsibilities, or to shirk away from threats. It is to be bold to face up to challenges. Good leadership means not over-analyzing anything, but taking action to do something. It is learning to swim upstream despite the loneliness of leadership. It is not being afraid to make mistakes. There are many examples of military situations, and wisdom from generals and commanders.

7) Servant Heart
This is the most important but also hardest for people to grasp. For Williams, the first 6 sides of leadership are all nouns. This seventh one is a verb: serving. He is so convinced that he calls serving the 'key' to leadership excellence.

My Thoughts

This book is a great collection cum reference book on many things on leadership. I like the many different anecdotes and wisdom from the different books and leaders Williams have learned from. The book is systematic in its presentation of the leadership traits. It is backed up with stories and multiple references to other leadership literature. It teaches. It motivates. It inspires. This is what leadership is all about. Williams has done a great service for all of us keen to learn and to practise leadership.

I strongly recommend this book to be read by all leaders, past, present and future. The old will nod their heads. The young will be wowed. For the rest, they will be actively challenged to pursue after leadership challenge. Great book!

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.

This book is provided to me free by Barbour Publishing and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions furnished above are mine.