Book Reviews

By Seville, Brian U.; Devine, Kay Stratton | Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, September 1996 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews


Seville, Brian U., Devine, Kay Stratton, Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration


Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of Direction for Your Organization Burt Nanus. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1992, 237 pp.

Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993, 332 pp.

The New Leaders: Guidelines on Leadership Diversity in America Ann M. Morrison. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1992, 317 pp.

Learning to Lead The Art of Transforming Managers into Leaders Jay A. Conger. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1992, 234 pp.

The four books that I will review in this article are all on various aspects of leadership (and all are published by Jossey-Bass). One logical sequence in which to look at the topics covered would seem to be: (1) to be a leader, a person must first have a vision; (2) to be accepted, the leader must then be credible; (3) when leaders are needed or being sought, no groups are to be excludedresulting in diversity, (4) can people be trained to be leaders? And, if so, how? Each book deals with one of these areas, and I will examine them in that order. After discussing each book separately, I will make some general comments and observations.

Vision

The overriding message of Visionary Leadership, by Burt Nanus, is how important a vision is-to leaders and to organizations. The bulk of the book is a workbook on developing and implementing a vision.

Making little claim to be expressing anything but his own convictions, Nanus states that "An attractive, worthwhile, achievable, and widely shared vision of the future is the most powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success" (p. 3) and that "Effective leaders adopt challenging new visions of what is both possible and desirable, communicate their visions, and persuade others to become so committed to these new directions that they are eager to lend their resources and energies to make them happen" (p. 4). Nanus believes that the basic ability to formulate a clear vision is well within the range of any intelligent person. A good vision is realistic, credible, future-oriented, utopian (in the sense of reflecting high ideals and leading to a better future for the organization), appropriate to the organization's history, culture and values, and sets standards of excellence. It is also ambitious, clarifies the purpose and direction and reflects the uniqueness of the organization, creates meaning in workers' lives, reflects the needs and aspirations of many stakeholders, and probably most of all, inspires enthusiasm and commitment to the organization.

Early in the book, Nanus goes through a litany of problems in the United States to support his contention that there is a great dearth of leadership in that countryfalling standard of living, foreign economic domination, declining quality of education, urban, family, and environmental woes, etc. (Are Canada's problems so similar and so serious because Mulroney took us so much further toward being handmaids to the U.S.?) Then, towards the end of the book, he has a section (which I found among the most interesting of all) where he describes what he feels needs to be done-mostly through education-to ensure more and better visionary leaders in the future. His points include the early development of a sense of self-esteem in children, the stimulation of their imagination and creativity, encouraging them to be experimental and to assume responsibility, and developing their communication skills through such activities as acting in plays, keeping diaries, etc. He suggests teaching children that learning is fun, teaching them how to learn how to learn, encouraging all interests so that things that seem like "play" might merge into "work," and teaching them about great leaders. This raises the obvious question-which Nanus doesn't comment on-of who decides. I feel that Louis Riel, Nellie McClung, and Moses Coady were great leaders, but they may not be to others. …

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