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21 Leaders for the 21st Century [Secure eReader]
eBook by Fons Trompenaars

eBook Category: Business
eBook Description: Leadership is more than just a skill or technique. It is a style, a mindset. Exceptional leadership provides the capacity to reconcile contrasting players and objectives and turn them into a single, powerful system­­with the ability to function cooperatively and learn from its own activities. 21 Leaders for the 21st Century goes beyond rote skill sets and systems to examine how 21 of today's most accomplished global leaders have confronted­­and overcome­­major dilemmas in building their businesses and guiding their careers. Leading international management consultants and authors Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner join with a cross section of today's most respected experts of business and academia to analyze the successes of leaders including:
*Michael Dell­­Dell Computers
*Richard Branson­­Virgin
*Karel Vursteen­­Heineken
*Hugo Levecke­­ABN AMRO
*Mark Moody-Stuart­­Royal Dutch Shell
*Stan Shih­­Acer Computers
*Jim Morgan­­Applied Materials

eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2002


A generation ago two world wars had so influenced our concept of leadership as to cast it in a military mode. To "lead" was to know sooner than others and convince them that harsh realities had to be faced and sacrifices had to be made. Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Dwight D. Eisenhower led; the rest of us followed. There was an inevitable feeling of uncertainty about those times. We were right, and the enemy was wrong. We all knew what had to be done even if the doing was hard and dangerous. Our leaders had been the first to proclaim this necessity.

How different are the circumstances now! Today it is much easier to get things done. Gone are the blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Kosovo is bombed from a safe height. However, we are now much less sure about what ought to be done. We see people trying to lead but question whether we should follow. Why go in this direction and not that one?

Studies of leadership have attempted to duck the issue of what should be done by grounding themselves in what the leader was trying to do, not in the critiquing of values. The test became performance: Does this or that leader accomplish what he or she set out to do?

In 1983 Warren Bennis, a well-known writer on leadership, traveled across the United States, proclaiming four universal traits of leadership:

  • Management of attention (the leader draws you to him or her and makes you want to join the cause).

  • Management of trust (leaders can be trusted because they are consistent -- even if you disagree with their views).

  • Management of self (leaders know their own skills and deploy them effectively).

  • Management of meaning (leaders are great communicators).

This kind of prescription is largely value free and regards leadership as a skill or technique.

Hersey and Blanchard (1983) propose a "situational leadership" model. Styles of leadership are appropriate to different paradigms. The trick is to identify the paradigm and adjust your style to the attitudinal and knowledge stance of the followers. This kind of prescription is largely reactive and unidirectional.

In The Future of Leadership, White and associates (1996) assert five key skills of a leader, gleaned from their observations:

  • Continually learning things that are hard to learn

  • Maximizing energy as a master of uncertainty

  • Capturing an issue's essence to achieve by resonant simplicity

  • Balancing the long term and the short term in a multiple focus

  • Applying an inner sense or gut feeling in the absence of decision support data

Many other authors and researchers have faced this struggle, and many prescriptions and explanations have been published. However, those explanations lack a coherent underlying rationale or fundamental principle that predicts effective leadership behaviors. These models tend to seek the same end but differ in approach as they try to encapsulate the existing body of knowledge about what makes an effective leader. Because of their methodology, these are only prescriptive lists. There is no underlying rationale or unifying theme that defines the holistic experience.

Such approaches create considerable confusion for today's world transcultural manager. Because most management theory comes from the United States and other English-speaking countries, there is a real danger of ethnocentrism. We do not know, for example, how the lists cited here fare outside the United States or how diverse might be the conceptions of leadership elsewhere. Do different cultures necessitate different styles? Can we reasonably expect other cultures to follow a lead from outside those cultures?

The approach to leadership in this book is completely different. It developed from the convergence of two separate strands of thinking, one from each of the principal authors. The earlier research by Fons Trompenaars, developed since the early 1990s, was based on getting people to consider where they were coming from in terms of norms, values, and attitudes. This approach helped identify and model the source not only of national cultural differences but also of corporate culture and how to deal with diversity in a local workforce. It helped managers structure their experiences and provided new insights for them and their organizations into the real source of problems in managing across cultures or dealing with diversity. The second strand was the work of Charles Hampden-Turner, who developed a methodology for reconciling seemingly opposed values. In his research, constructs such as universalism (adherence to rules) and particularism (each case is an exception) are not separate notions but different, reconcilable points on a sliding scale. Universal rules are tested against a variety of exceptions and re-formed to take account of them.

The result of combining the two strands of research is that differences are progressively reconciled. Managers work to accomplish this or that objective; effective leaders deal with the dilemmas of seemingly opposed objectives that they continually seek to reconcile. As is discussed throughout the body of this book, the contributing authors have collected primary evidence to support this proposition through questionnaires, workshops, simulations, and interviews. Furthermore, it is confirmed that these behaviors correlate with bottom-line business results.

The 21 leaders described in this book were approached deductively. The authors started with a proposition centered on the reconciliation of dilemmas and set out to demonstrate these concepts with evidence gathered from high-performing leaders. Thus, unlike other approaches that result from postrationalizing observations into an ad hoc theory, they had the advantage of a conceptual framework when they approached and interviewed the target list of leaders. The overall aim of this book is to render leadership practice tangible by showing how 21 world-class leaders reconcile the dilemmas that face their companies.

Peter Woolliams, PhD
Professor of International Business
Anglia Business School, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2002 by Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner

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