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Book Review
Creating Leaderful Organizations: How To Bring Out Leadership In Everyone

-by Joseph A. Raelin
Berrett-Koehler, 250 pages, $16.07


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Creating Leaderful Organization’s system of mutual checks and balances directly challenges the conventional view of leadership as "being out in front" and encourages organizations to adopt a new paradigm of participative leadership. Because our culture values individualism while preaching teamwork, people often underestimate the value of participative leading. The book manages to move beyond the clichés of empowerment and offers inclusive strategies for effective leading.

"In the 21st Century organization we need to establish communities where everyone shares the experience of serving as a leader, not serially, but concurrently and collectively," writes Raelin.

Sharing leadership is accomplished through what Raelin calls leaderful practice. This practice is an ever-evolving group process that moves away from dependency on one person and concentrates on creating self-sufficiency within each member.

Creating Leaderful Organizations cites these four C’s of leaderful practice:

1. leadership’s former serial quality becomes concurrent

2. leadership’s individual focus becomes collective

3. leadership’s controlling orientation becomes collaborative

4. leadership’s dispassionate nature changes to compassionate

These C’s decentralize the power associated with bosses and leaders to create a more democratic organization. According to Raelin, "Placing exclusive power in an authority figure to determine the course of events in an organization without sharing leadership with others requires a dependence that relegates all employees to a subsidiary ‘yes boss’ role. The net effect on adaptability and learning can be disastrous."

Creating Leaderful Organizations uses a variety of methods to illuminate leadership and suggest remedies for turbulent workplaces. Participative leading means that leaders adopt roles like collaborator, as agent of change, and dialoguer. These various roles are explored with specific examples and scenarios played out. One remedy tries to rid people of the romantic distinction between a manager and a leader. "Leaders can emerge from anywhere at anytime and can be anyone. Let’s move on from the archaic notion that managers are rational and unimaginative while leaders are visionary and experimental," writes Raelin.

Authenticity and trust are themes explored in the chapter on "The Benefits of Leaderful Practice." Raelin relates the story of Ken Melrose taking over as president of the near bankrupt Toro Company. After massive layoffs, morale was at an all-time low. Melrose called all of the remaining employees together and told them the company was in a severe crisis because management had let them down. "If you want to blame someone, then blame me. If you want to be part of the solution, then join me, and we’ll bring this company back from the ashes." This personal appeal to the workers led to a change in the business culture. Four years later, Toro returned to solid status.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote "If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the crew to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." Creating Leaderful Organizations instructs on how to cultivate that yearning in every member of a team. Redistributing leadership is a radical idea, but one that makes everybody accountable and responsible for each and every outcome. The book is a handy tool for anyone with aspirations of building that ship and sailing the seas of success.



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