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Unnatural Leadership
Book Review



By David L. Dotlich and Peter C. Cairo 

How many times have we heard the phrase, “He/she is a natural leader”?  The authors contend that “natural leadership” is a characteristic of the old-style, do-as-I-say management.  In order to lead in the 21st century, a transition must be made from the natural to the “unnatural leadership” traits, which will help us face the challenges of today’s intense global competitive atmosphere. 

The authors list ten traits of unnatural leadership that are the basis for their theory: 

1.                Refuse to be a prisoner of experience.  Leaders get in an experience rut.  They do the same things the same way because it worked in the past…today, leaders must discipline themselves to look at problems and opportunities with a fresh eye.” 

2.                “Expose your vulnerabilities…leaders face so much ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty that they cannot possibly know all the answers…direct reports, team members, and others respect managers who can admit their shortcomings without whining or pretending.” 

3.                “Acknowledge your shadow side…the notion of the perfect leader should be a thing of the past but many executives today still strive for perfection.  They are unwilling to admit or unable to see their flaws.” 

4.                “Develop a right-versus-right decision-making mentality…(unnatural leaders are) willing to accept that there is no one right solution, freeing yourself to consider a range of solutions.” 

5.                “Create teams that create discomfort…leaders need to recruit at least some teams members who have different perspectives and are willing to stimulate debate and challenge.” 

6.                “Trust others before they earn it…leaders today need to trust first and ask questions later…they must take the optimistic view that most people can be trusted.” 

7.                “Coach and teach rather than lead and inspire…direct reports today expect to be developed.  They also expect a closer relationship with their bosses, appropriate guidance and feedback.” 

8.                “Connect instead of create…forming alliances with unlikely partners, including competitors, is an increasingly common experience for leaders…it takes longer to create something on your own than to acquire it through a coalition.”

9.                “Give up some control…natural leaders have a strong need for control.  It feels unnatural to let go…an unnatural leader must find the right balance between control and autonomy.” 

10.          “Challenge the conventional wisdom.  Unnatural leaders must be willing to take a risk and challenge the conventional wisdom yet simultaneously preserve the culture’s strengths.  They must seek to reshape the organization, not tear it down.” 

The book goes in-depth with each of these points, giving wonderful examples on how each principle worked in real life.  Also, there are many self-assessment tools for the reader to analyze his/her own situations.  Effective leaders know that having an open-mind to new ideas and continuous learning is the key to achieving personal goals.  This book fulfills this requirement.  It is highly recommended.

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This page last updated on

11 May, 2011 17:17









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