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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Book Review: GREAT! What Makes Leaders Great

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The pre-publication popularity of the best-selling book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is testament to the fact that the reading public is dazzled by great business leaders. While that book delves into the life and leadership of one iconic entrepreneur, GREAT! by Timothy Bednarz offers insight into the stories of 160 influential American leaders (not all from business). The book provides both historical context and a fresh perspective by drawing insightful conclusions about characteristics the leaders have in common.

Bednarz begins by identifying key factors of success that are reprised in later chapters. The second chapter establishes the platform for the broad approach of the book by summarizing the large number of operations (automotive, banking, e-commerce, industrial production, and innovation, to name a few) that have been transformed by the leaders spoken of in the text.

In subsequent chapters, the author addresses what these leaders have in common. The categories are quite general—for example, impact, motivation, character—but Bednarz uses them effectively to relate successful people from different types of careers and from different times. In a chapter titled “CAPABILITIES: The Masters of Their Universe,” Bednarz quotes Fred Smith of Federal Express, Admiral Hyman Rickover of the US Navy, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Estée Lauder of Estée Lauder, and Steve Jobs of Apple, among others. Snippets about such diverse leaders are included under the following subheadings: Persistence, High Degrees of Confidence, Intuition, Curious and Investigative Thinkers, and Masters of Knowledge and Expertise.

At the end of the book, Bednarz summarizes the key findings of the extensive research he conducted on the 160 individuals. He offers fourteen generalizations that provide keen insight into fundamental leadership traits, such as the following: “The great leaders generated enduring organizational values that mirrored their personal attitudes, values, thinking and work ethics.” Bednarz provides an appendix that explains the methodology he used in his research. He also lists other leaders he considered but did not choose for his study.

GREAT! is a fascinating, scrupulously documented work that weaves together the stories of great leaders in a readable format. While a few readers may balk at the rapid-fire delivery that incorporates a sometimes dizzying number of leaders into each chapter, Bednarz does a superb job of structuring the text into meaningful sections. Ultimately, GREAT! is a brilliantly conceived and cohesive work—a unique book about leadership that extends far beyond the business genre.

Barry Silverstein

Published by ForeWard Reviews – January, 2012 as a ForeWard Clarion Review

Copyright © 2012 ForeWord Reviews, Used with Permission

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New Book Reveals The Most Accurate Gauge of Great Leadership is Legitimacy

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At a time when America is crying out for leadership in all sectors of society, a new book, which researched 160 great and influential American leaders, spanning 235 years revealed that the most accurate gauge of great leadership is legitimacy.

It illustrates that the great leaders acquired legitimacy by establishing trust, credibility, respect and emotional bonds and standing with all of their key constituencies, while delivering stellar financial performance.

The research reveals that when leaders balance the needs of all of their key constituencies, they outperform others, who sole focus on shareholder values. The focus on shareholder values concentrates upon the needs of one key constituency, often at the expense of the others. This destroys a leader’s credibility and often the long-term sustainability of the company.

The researcher and author, Timothy Bednarz, Ph.D. designated this pattern in his book Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press) as the Legitimacy Principles.

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship produced between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership, and it provides insight into a new definition of it.
The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

It is often assumed that leaders automatically possess legitimacy. Great! substantiates that this is a fallacy. It shows that legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that grant leaders permission to lead.

The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically attained once one is appointed. It is earned. It becomes a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other. However, validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and a balance of emotional bonds with each key constituency. The findings of the research presented in this book, demonstrates that these are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these three critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is significantly undermined, whether for a corporate executive or a political leader. The Legitimacy Principles are applicable to all forms of leadership.

An executive summary and the key findings published in Great! What Makes Leaders Great; What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It can be viewed at http://www.whatmakesleadersgreat.com. The book also can be purchased at this site, or by calling 800-654-4935.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

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