In an age when we're almost drowning in a sea of literature on the subject of leadership, this book explores the topic with a simplicity that allows the listener to access the author’s wisdom borne out of years of hard practice and learning – not a false simplicity offering trite answers or solutions. The majority of books on leadership peddle a variation of the “Great Man” theory of leadership: leadership is for those special individuals born with a rare and mythical set of qualities who step forward at the right moment with the right answer. Some offer an easy path – follow a few quick, easy steps and you too can have what it takes to be a great leader. Many are simply management tools – worthwhile but distinct from the leadership question. Plenty of leadership with silver bullets! Most of these books are not very helpful to anyone serious about exercising leadership on tough, complex challenges in the 21st century.
Leadership Without Silver Bullets offers a refreshing antidote to this plethora of stale or simplistic notions of leadership, with author Phillip Ralph approaching the topic with an unusual combination of clarity, honesty, and insightfulness. This is done by debunking many of the modern myths on leadership, while constructing an accessible and eminently applicable model for today’s organizational challenges. This book provides an eminently practical guide for listeners who wants to see real change and growth in themselves and their organizations.
The book's theme matches our beliefs about leadership development - so naturally we liked this about it! We also liked the way Phillip Ralph has distilled some of the more useful and current thinking about leadership into his 7 Sphere's 'model'. We found it quite refreshing that his model was NOT overly neat and that some actions, behaviours and principles get repeated and spill over into other spheres.
Throughout the book, Ralph offers quotes from some well known authors and regular readers of leadership books will also spot principles from a wide range of unnamed sources including Servant Leadership, Crucial Conversations, Five Dysfunctions of a Team etc. Not that this is a bad thing; we even had some fun playing "spot the source"!
We particularly liked Ralph's definition of leadership and have added it to the range of definitions we include in our development programmes. He is also clearly challenging about the leader-follower relationship; and this made us think about whether we are still subconsciously promoting this paradigm in our work. It is great to be questioned in this way.
We are not sure that this could be considered a "guide" though - it's more of a prod. We found the 'practical tips' that others mention to be a bit vague and well worn. It may be the way it is narrated but it also felt a bit cliche-dominated at times. The "fable" style fourth section did not work for us. The WORST thing about this audiobook was the narration. It was slow paced, yes. But worse than this, the narrator seemed to put emphasis and pauses in apparently random places. At times, it sounded as though the narrator did not understand some of the phrases he was using. This detracted from the book's message. I personally got frustrated and turned off my iPod on more than one occasion. However, something made me go back to the book.
If you have read most of the other books about leadership then this might be of interest - but buy the book not the audiobook!