Contrarian's Guide to Leadership in Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

The book therefore meanders through concepts, becoming pedantic in areas and autobiographical in others. Ironically the author makes the point that intellectual freedom is the catalyst of excellent leadership. The freedom of seeing time differently across an organization, from the long-term orientation of the leader to the short-term orientation of a manager or supervisor, is downplayed and ignored. Inherent in intellectual independence are the series of decisions as to how one will spend one's time. At a much more fundamental level, how a leader will compensate for wide variations in the perception of time across the organizations they serve also must be taken into account. None of these perspectives are mentioned, despite chapters of the book endorsing ambiguity and the strategy of not making any decision at all. It is a contradiction and paradox that also underscores this books' framework.

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

The book's focus on the behaviors and perspectives of leaders includes chapters on Artful Listening (Chapter 2) and Follow the Leader (Chapter 9). These areas of leadership styles, specifically embracing transformational leadership and emotional intelligence, are found in Chapter 8, Work for Those Who Work for you and Chapter 9, Being President vs. Doing President. These are two of the better chapters in the book, as the author provides insights into how leadership can in fact be taught. He uses autobiographical examples from running USC and also shows how critical it is for a leader to be transformational in their approach to managing an organization. The role of transformational leadership has been proven to have a strong impact on individual employees' attitudes, commitment, and resulting performance, all centered on trust in the judgment and direction of their leaders (Pieterse, van Knippenberg, Schippers, Stam, 2010). Studies of transformational leaders also indicate they are more accountable, transparent and inspire higher levels of trust over time, thereby making the task of navigating an organization much more effective than if transactional approaches had been used (Liu, Siu, Shi, 2010). The last three chapters of the book bring the role of transformational leadership into a pragmatic context, illustrating how this skill set is essential for leading an organization. The author has examples from USC that show how, in an organization at times unwilling to change, there has been success with changing the direction and focus of the university. This is a major accomplishment, especially in an organization which can be incredibly resistant to change.


The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership sets an ambitious goal of spanning the theoretical to the pragmatic in the field of leadership. It fails to fully accomplish this vision, yet does deliver useful insights into transformational leadership strategies and how they can be used to overcome resistance to change. The framework defined in the book lacks urgency and quite frankly would not stand up to the hard realities of companies fighting to survive in a global economic recession. For many firms today there is no luxury of time to wait for all the facts to come in, strategies must be defined and goals attained if they are to survive. This is the greatest weakness of the book; it lacks a hard pragmatism that reflects the reality so many firms are going through right now. When evaluated from this perspective it appears pedantic, even academic. Despite this weakness, the author does provide insights into how transformational leadership can lead to successful change management, even in institutions known for their strong resistance to it. The ability to keep a major university agile and able to respond is where the real strength of this book is. The lessons learned from a transformational leadership standpoint compensate for its weaknesses overall.


Bodla, M., & Nawaz, M. (2010). Transformational Leadership Style and its Relationship with Satisfaction. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(1), 370-381.

Liu, C.. (2008). The Relationship Between Machiavellianism and Knowledge Sharing Willingness. Journal of Business and Psychology, 22(3), 233-240.

Liu, J., Siu, O., & Shi, K.. (2010). Transformational Leadership and Employee Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Trust in the Leader and Self-Efficacy. Applied Psychology, 59(3), 454-479.

Pieterse, a., van Knippenberg, D., Schippers, M., & Stam, D.. (2010). Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment. Journal of Organizational Behavior,…

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