January 22, 2014

Leadership: A Very Short Introduction

4 out of 5 stars

K. GrintDescription

Title: Leadership: A Very Short Introduction
Size: 160 pages (Duodecimo)
Publisher: Oxford University Press (29 July 2010)
ISBN: (10) 0199569916, (13) 978-0199569915

At a Glance

The Book

The book ponders upon the major questions relating to leadership, encouraging the reader to reconsider what they knew about it. The book looks at leadership development throughout history arriving at present time, and considering the value of leaders in society today.
The book is easy to read thanks to its simplified language and interesting ideas (as such are many of the wonderful titles of Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series).

Book Construction

There are 8 chapters in the book; the first three are aimed at identifying and defining leadership, they are titled ‘What is leadership?’, ‘What isn’t leadership?’ and ‘What was leadership?’; next a chapter on the age-long question ‘Are leaders born or bred?’; Chapters 5,6,& 7 reflect upon the identities of leaders and followers; and finally, chapter 8 deals on a practical level with the true value of leadership asking the question ‘can we do without leaders?’

The Author

Keith Grint is a Professor of Public Leadership and Management at the University of Warwick. He is a founding co-editor of the journal Leadership published by sage and founding co-organizer of the International conference in leadership research.

A Topology of Leadership Development - CopyWhat I Took from the Book

On the definition of leadership

The meaning of leadership itself is much contested; even after “thousands of years of pondering and a century of academic research into it”. Prof. Grint suggests that the more we know about it the less we understand it. However, in an attempt to define leadership, Grint makes differences in four main types of leadership:

  • Position-based leadership: activity undertaken by someone whose position on a vertical and usually formal hierarchy provides then with sources to lead.

  • Person-based leadership: it is who you are that determines whether you are a leader or not, characteristics and magnetism play a major role here.

  • Result-based leadership: the reasoning here is that the purpose of leadership is achieving results, so he who achieves most is a better leader.

  • Process-based leadership: assuming those leaders are generously different from non-leaders, acting like a leader makes the best leader, what this means is the context is critical and leaders must be exemplary.

On the born-or-bred debate

I found it nice to have all parts of the discussion on represented one continuous scale, I am referring to the table on page 51 that offers a topology of leadership development, starting from two axes; 1) nature vs. nurture; and 2) individual vs. collective.

Is it Recommended

Yes, I would mostly recommend this for people who know nothing about the field, but also to those who study leadership or are leaders, because I believe it has something to offer for everyone, both academically and practically. Maybe this because the prof. Grint spent 10 years in industry before switching to an academic career.

One final note

What is really interesting about this book is the fact that although its chapters have questions as their titles (meaning chapters themselves are aimed at being answers), but the books poses more questions that it does answers. In fact, you will mostly put this book down having more questions about leadership than you have when you started reading it! Especially toward the end, where the reading takes an interesting turn discussing controversial matters such as sacrifice, scapegoats, and exclusion. But I think this was by design not by mistake, the author definitely want us to reflect upon what we already know about this mystery called Leadership.

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