There is a lot of literature about leadership, there even is a lot of literature about political leadership, written by political scientists, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, neuro-scientists ...
- but which of those books are the classics, which maybe the most innovative or most insightful, which the most controversial or most influential?
And there is a lot of talk about leadership, in the media, at the pup, even at work ... , almost always demanding more, better, stronger or just questioning current political leadership.
We are concerned about and we talk passionately about leadership, we write about and research political leadership - but what do we really know?
And why is it even important to understand?

Monday, June 4, 2018

Thomas E. Cronin, Michael A. Genovese [2016]

Leadership Matters:
Unleashing the Power of Paradox.

Quote:"Leadership, like life, is too complex for simplistic answers. Leadership and life are complex, contradictory, paradoxical. That is why life -and leadership- are about balance and flexibility, not absolutes and rigidity." [p.3 / pos.173] 

Abstract: In Leadership Matters (first published in 2012) Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese, both political scientists and renown experts in the field of leadership, write about the paradoxes of leadership.

Key-Words: leadership - paradoxes of leadership - leadership as performing art

Definition of Leadership: "Leadership is about making things happen that otherwise might not happen. It is a process of getting people to work together to achieve mutually shared aspirations. Leadership invariably involves an infusion of vision, purpose, and energy into an enterprise. It entails mobilizing both people and resources in order to achieve results." [pos.83]

The above definition can be labeled as situational, intentional, procedural and relational.

  • the paradoxes of leadership
According to the authors leaders deal with "a collage of conflicting expectations, dilemmas, and necessities", just like "We both admire and fear power. We admire and fear leaders (...) We want leaders who are like us yet better than us. (...)" [pos.145/p.1] and the best leaders are able to deal with these contradictions, even if this means choosing the lesser evil or violating the moral code and they have to be able not only to lead but to follow and accept that their followers might sometimes function as leaders and cope with different or changing context at the same time. 

In so far leadership is in and of itself  a paradox and it demands from its best protagonists understanding and managing of such paradoxes. "Leaders embrace paradoxes and learn to reconcile them when they can, yet coexist with them when they cannot. The best of leaders learn to exploit paradoxes, transcend either/or choices, and, where possible, unlock the power and advantages of paradox."[pos.7450/p.322]

  • leadership as performing art
The authors argue that leadership is more an art than a science, that it is therefore really difficult to measure the special relationship between leader and followers, but that leadership though hugely individual, always comes with a price for both leader and followers.
Part of the art of leadership is not only stagecraft, convincing, inspiring and persuading but also (and probably more importantly so) listening - effectively and openly. 
The upside of describing leadership as an art form is that the skills can be learned. But leadership demands community and at least basic shared values therefore sustaining community and upholding said common values is part of the leadership-deal. Leadership depends on pragmatic compromise, collaboration and empathy for others.


Despite its title "Leadership Matters" the authors remind us that "leadership is not the be-all and end-all", that it is only "part of the puzzle" [pos.820/p.30] yet they make a convincing case for the importance of leadership by presenting a lot of historic examples and current and historical scholarly wisdom.

First Sentence: "Of course, life would be easier if leadership was just a list of simple rules, but paradoxes are inherent in the trade. (Former GE chairman Jack Welch)" [pos.127]  

Last Sentence: "As emphasized, leaders find it useful to view paradoxes in a dialectical manner, in which a thesis often gets matched in creative ways by an antithesis, and these seeming opposites call on the leader for a reframing synthesis. Ideal leaders are integrative and synthesizing thinkers; they can think fast, slow and smartly as they reliantly adapt to opportunities, paradoxes, and the luck that confront every venture.[pos. 7449 / p.322]

Language: english - needs time to read

Assessment: influential model of leadership - useful für scholars as well as coaches

Link to Author's Sites: 
Thomas e. Cronin: 
Michael A. Genovese:
Video of the two authors:

*: The book, originally published in 2012, has been republished in 2016, the quotes have been taken from the kindle edition by Routledge 2016.

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