Sample, Steven, P. The CONTRARIAN’S Guide to Leadership. Jossey-Bass 2002
This book is a very practical document on leadership written by a very effective leader. The principles taught are timeless and the challenge of applying them is presented as doable. A great resource for any leader that is open to growth and development.
Ch. 1. Thinking Gray and Free.
The advantages of thinking gray are explained. Suspending judgment is part of thinking gray. Thinking free takes thinking to a new level. If a leader finds thinking free a challenge he can still benefit from the process as it is practiced by those he leads.
Ch. 2. Artful Listening.
“Artful listening is an excellent means of acquiring new ideas and gathering and assessing information.” p21 a solid long-term marriage is an asset for a leader. Close, trusted, and wise advisors are essential. Elected advisors pose a special challenge for a leader. There can be value in unsolicited advice. Listeners must realize that some people interpret listening as argument. There is a right time to stop listening.
Ch. 3. Experts.
Experts need to serve their clients not their egos. A discussion is presented on science and technology in terms of their relevancy to leadership needs. “It is helpful to know what it is you hope to get out of an expert before you ask him/her to become a part of your team.” P53
Ch. 4. You Are What You Read.
There is great value in reading (ancient) supertexts that have survived the test of time. The reading of previews of books is a good use of time. With so many books being written it becomes a challenge to choose the right books to read. One of the author’s favorite supertexts is Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Ch. 5. Decisions, Decisions.
Two rules are suggested regarding making decisions. “Never make a decision that can be delegated. Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.” p71-72 Delegating does not mean avoiding responsibility for the decision. Leaders should not delegate the hiring and firing of key lieutenants and decisions that are key to the organization. Chance and judgment are key in decision-making. Listen carefully to your inner voice (conscience or God) when making decisions.
Ch. 6. Give the Devil His Due.
This is an interesting chapter based on Machiavelli’s understanding of leadership. A leader “should be feared and loved at the same time but if forced to make a choice between the two choose fear over love”. p98 Feared but not hated.
Ch. 7. Know Which Hill You Are Willing to Die On.
There is a huge difference between good leadership and effective leadership. It is one thing to make known your core (moral) values but it is not wise to make public the hill on which you are willing to die. The difference between moral and ethical behavior is discussed. The question “How do you feel about God?” p115 helps sort out your ethical convictions. “ Develop and hold your own moral convictions, while being as open as possible to the strongly held moral beliefs of others.” p118
Ch. 8 Work For Those Who Work For You.
Ideally, leaders should hire lieutenants stronger than themselves. “It’s great people, not great job descriptions, that make an organization successful.” p125 Diversity among senior lieutenants is an advantage. People realizing through proper communication that a change would be in their best interests can sometimes avoid firings. Leader initiated evaluations are helpful in this process.
Ch. 9. Follow The Leader.
By definition leaders must have followers. Leadership is not just an appointed position. In communication, good stories are a useful tool for a leader. “Words are the primary stock-in-trade of leadership.” p149 Especially spoken words. To motivate followers requires praise and exhortation along with monetary rewards. In good leadership followers also lead the leader.
Ch. 10. Being President Verses Doing President.
“Sample’s 70/30 Formula for Leadership” p161 is introduced and discussed. Counterintuitive hooks” p165 are tools that can be used for media or public attention. “Anything worth doing at all is worth doing just well enough.” p168
Ch. 11. The University of Southern California., A Case Study in Contrarian Leadership.
This is an interesting story of U.S.C., demonstrating how contrarian leadership works.
The thesis of the book is stated briefly in fifteen principles. These principles “are predicated on an underlying belief that leadership is highly situational and contingent”. p190 Some insist that “leaders are the architect of history” while others believe that “history is the architect of leaders”. p190 The author suggests that the significance of leaders lies midway between these two positions.