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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Book review: Why Should Anyone be Led by You? What it Takes to be an Authentic Leader


Why should anyone Book Cover
Title: Why Should Anyone be Led by You? What it Takes to be an Authentic Leader
Author: Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
ISBN: 1 – 57851 – 971 – 3
Price: £15.99
Reviewer: Rob Sheffield

So, if you’re like me and wondering what yet another book on leadership could possibly add to your understanding, pause a moment. This one may just be worth your precious time. These days, it seems people want answers, and preferably now…

Why Should Anyone be Led by You? does add a different perspective, as well as the authors’ matured reflections and conclusions. It has a persuasive authority gleaned from 20 years of research, consulting, leading others and a passion for their subject, that will make you stop and think.

I liked it a lot. Goffee and Jones’ book has the ring of truth to it. It’s realistic, illustrated with stories of real leaders, at different levels, how they get by and often succeeded. And, sometimes, why they failed.

It is challenging: “Make no mistake, leadership is about results … but it is not only about performance; it is also about meaning … leaders at all levels make a difference to performance … because they make performance meaningful.”

The book also focuses on followers. Not many leadership books do this. What do followers want? Four things according to the authors: feelings of excitement and significance for themselves; to be part of something bigger – a community of sorts, and to experience solidarity with others.

But more than these, followers want leaders who are authentic people. Much of the book examines how authenticity is experienced by followers, why we want it so badly, and how easily it is acquired!

For example, the authors argue that in our society we want our leaders to reveal themselves as humans, with weaknesses. They discuss how far leaders should do this, in which contexts and to which ends. They exhort leaders to “Be yourself – more – with skill”.

This requires that leaders are self-aware enough to create the effect on others they want; but an awareness of our emotions requires being judicious in deciding when to display and when to withhold. Enough awareness and enough skills in judgement: leaders can fail on either point.

For those with an interest in emotions and how they can aid or derail leadership efforts, this will bolster your views but also cause you to refine your thoughts about the use of emotional intelligence in specific situations.

It’s highly readable. It is an inspirational book in its best sense: it doesn’t promise the world, but it is optimistic based on the good and bad seen by the authors. It certainly taps into the cultural zeitgeist in the western world, and our increasing concern with leaders we can trust.

It is not really a “how to” book. In truth it’s not a leadership development book, but it will help leaders explore difficult subjects in their role that will touch them closely. I recommend it for anyone interested in how leaders can make a sustained difference – assuming you make the time to stop and think.

Review ratings:

  • Overall 5
  • Helpfulness 4
  • Layout 4
  • Value for money 5
  • Suitability for professional level 4
  • Would you recommend it? Yes

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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