Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: "The Leadership Pill"

The Leadership Pill: The Missing Ingredient in Motivating People Today
Authors: Ken Blanchard and Marc Muchnick
Published: NY: Free Press, 2003.

The Leadership Pill: The Missing Ingredient in Motivating People TodayThis is an entertaining fable filled with snippets of leadership insights from a master story teller. The main idea is that leadership is not a short-term magical pill to be swallowed, but a long-term sustained discipline to be followed. It contrasts a Leadership Pill (developed by LPI) and a Secret Bland (advocated by an Effective Leader) via an entertaining competitive game. One group is lead by a leader who practically pops pills to get work done. The other group is led by an 'Effective Leader' who spends much time motivating, coaching, mentoring and supporting the team members. So we have the Pill-Full team vs the Pill-Free team.

The judges will measure both teams based on a Triple-Bottom Line, which comprises of being recognized as a 'provider of choice,' 'the employer of choice,' and 'the investment of choice.' (29)

The provider of choice is a measure of how well customers' expectations were met. The 'employer of choice' represents how good is the work morale and team performance. The 'investment of choice' is about financial profitability over the long haul.

The LPI team touted their special pill:
"The Leadership Pill enhances your ability to lead. When you take the Leadership Pill, you become more task-focused and action-oriented. Your ability to direct others and ger results increases. Ultimately, the Leadership Pill works fast, putting you in control as a leader. There's nothing quite like it." (9)

Meanwhile, the Secret Bland promises four components, namely integrity of the leader, partnership of all members of the team, bidirectional affirmation between leader and team members, and continual efforts to perfect these three.

The bulk of the book deals with how the Effective Leader turns a group of unmotivated, skeptical and dismissive people into a highly motivated, hopeful and enthusiastic learners.

My Comments
This book is simple but its ideas are never simplistic. It teaches leadership through an easy fable, using simple formulas such as 'Triple-Bottom Line,' Secret Bland,' as well as catchy snippets of leadership wisdom. It tells the reader the following:

  • There are no shortcuts to good leadership;
  • Trust and respect needs time to develop;
  • Short-term solutions seldom lead to long-term results;
  • Working with people is more an art rather than a science;

Below are three of my favourite quotes:
  • "Leadership is not something that you do to people. It's something you do with people."
  • INTEGRITY: "Leading with integrity means being the person you want others to be."
  • PARTNERSHIP: "The key to effectiv eleadership is the relationship you build with your team."
  • AFFIRMATION: Leadership is the process of getting everyone to the place they are supposed to go."
  • "The highest achievement as a leader is winning the respect and trust of your team."
  • "Profit is the applause you get for taking care of your customers and creating a motivating environment for people." 
Some Reservations
While the story has a predictable end, it is still after all a fable. While the authors view of the Secret Bland appears to be a runaway success, real life is never that successful. There are setbacks that can bring the most optimistic leader to his knees. In some cases, even the best application of the Secret Bland is only something that is internally controlled. What about external factors? What about competitors who have BOTH the secret pill AND the Secret Bland? I guess that is where the helpfulness ends. The main purpose of the book is to jolt short-termers to realize that leadership is an art that needs time, and sustained attention. It is not a scientific formula that can be readily used for immediate success. All leaders will benefit to learn this well.

This book can also be used as a coaching guide.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


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