Posted by: wordsmithsuk | May 15, 2012

Review of: Being the Boss: The 3 imperatives for becoming a great leader


You may be wondering why we need another book on management. I certainly did. But this one offers something different. First and foremost it’s a book for today’s managers: those struggling with the realities of limited resources, too little time, difficult relationships, virtual teams, cross cultural barriers and global office politics. Second it does not offer pat answers to awkward questions; rather it suggests a range of solutions, one of which may suit the reader’s own circumstances. And third the style of writing sets out to interest and engage right from the first page. This is no dusty discourse on the outcomes of the latest research. The whole book reads like a series of informal coaching sessions from two masters in the art of management. It engages in a dialogue with the reader – asking questions, suggesting solutions and acknowledging the myriad tricky tasks that managers undertake every day.

One of the authors, Linda A Hill, is a professor at Harvard Business School and developed the HBS MBA leadership course. The other, Kent Lineback, has spent three decades working as manager and executive in business and government. So they should know what they are talking about.

Being the Boss is structured around three key sections: Manage Yourself, Manage Your Network and Manage Your Team. Each chapter starts with an episode of a soap opera style case study which anchors the authors’ messages in the real world and challenges readers to consider how they would deal with the issues identified. After three or four chapters discussing different aspects of a particular ‘imperative’, each section ends with a self assessment questionnaire. This gives readers an opportunity to identify where they currently stand compared to where they should be. The next step is for readers to complete the journey by planning how to fix any areas needing improvement.

All the classic management models and principles are woven into these pages: management styles, communication methods, creating a positive culture, defining a strategy, team building, developing individuals, effective delegating. It’s comforting to know that those principles still hold true since the days of Tom Peters and John Adair. But anyone struggling to meet the tough challenges of today’s brave new world will find a host of other topics and ideas. I particularly liked reading the authors’ analysis of the paradoxes that define the fundamental nature of management. I was intrigued by their take on the shifting psychological contract between the leader and the ‘multifaceted and transient workforce’. I enjoyed their views on how to influence a problematic boss, how to coach people and how to deal with poor performance.

At the beginning of the book, Kent Lineback states that he wishes he had been able to read this book many years ago when he was a newly appointed manager. ‘It would have made me a better manager and saved me and the people around me some turmoil’. Hear hear.

What are your views on ‘Being the Boss’? Please leave a comment here – I’d love to know what you think.

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