Thinking about Leadership

Thinking about Leadership

Thinking about Leadership

Thinking about Leadership

Synopsis

Leadership is essential to collective human endeavor, from setting and accomplishing goals for a neighborhood block association, to running a Fortune 500 company, to mobilizing the energies of a nation. Political philosophers have focused largely on how to prevent leaders from abusing their power, yet little attention has been paid to what it actually feels like to hold power, how leaders go about their work, and how they relate to the people they lead. In Thinking about Leadership, Nannerl Keohane draws on her experience as the first woman president of Duke University and former president of Wellesley College, as well as her expertise as a leading political theorist, to deepen our understanding of what leaders do, how and why they do it, and the pitfalls and challenges they face.


Keohane engages readers in a series of questions that shed light on every facet of leadership. She considers the traits that make a good leader, including sound judgment, decisiveness, integrity, social skill, and intelligence; the role that gender plays in one's ability to attain and wield power; ethics and morality; the complex relationship between leaders and their followers; and the unique challenges of democratic leadership. Rich with lessons and insights from leaders and political thinkers down through the ages, including Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Nelson Mandela, Thinking about Leadership is a must-read for current and future leaders, and for anyone concerned about our prospects for good governance.

Excerpt

The book has its origins in a lecture presented at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in February 2005. I am grateful to colleagues who invit- ed me to give the lecture and thus launched me on this adven- ture. A revised version of that lecture was published in Perspec- tives on Politics 3, no. 4 (December 2005): 705–22. Cambridge University Press has graciously allowed me to use several para- graphs from that essay. Chapter 3 is a much-revised version of ”Crossing the Bridge: Reflections on Women and Leadership,” presented to a conference at the Kennedy School in 2006 and published in Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change, edited by Barbara Kellerman and Debo- rah L. Rhode (Jossey-Bass 2007). I am grateful for permission to use some passages from that essay.

In this book, I bring together two types of experience: my work as a leader in higher education over almost three decades and my training, teaching, and research as a political philoso- pher. As president of Wellesley College from 1981 until 1993 and of Duke University from 1993 until 2004, I had the re- sponsibility of presiding over two fine institutions of higher edu- cation. Through my service on boards of directors over these decades, I have observed leaders in other areas as well, from multinational corporations IBM and State Street Boston and . . .

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