Book Reviews

 
Leadership

The Leader's Guide: 15 Essential Skills

Author: Randall D. Ponder
Publisher The Oasis Press
Publication Date: 1998

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a writer and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc. He is also author of BYTE-ing Satire: A light-hearted poke in technology's eye.

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What is a leader? That’s the first question that The Leaders Guide answers. It points out that manager and leader are not synonyms. Anyone can be a leader, regardless of his or her job title. In fact, leadership is a role you can play in all aspects of your life, not just at work.

Next, the author looks at leadership styles, mapping them on several axes: democratic versus autocratic, collaborative versus directive, and so on. He points out that, typically, a leader doesn’t exclusively exhibit a single style. Rather, a leader may use a different style in different situations.

The third chapter looks at the attitudes of effective leaders. It also suggests techniques for retaining these attitudes in the face of the challenges to them that inevitably arise.

The remaining chapters examine the 15 essential leadership skills referred to in the book’s title. The skills are categorized as falling into three areas: technical and analytical skills, relationship skills, and strategic skills. Within these categories is information on managing your priorities and time, problem solving, project management, communication skills, teamwork, diversity issues, business strategies, and more.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Fortunately, Randall Ponder, the author of this book, understands this principle. Some authors of advice books and how-to guides develop a rigidly consistent chapter format, from which they will not deviate, even if some chapters would benefit from a different organization.

Ponder uses the best structure for each chapter based on the material it addresses. In some cases, that’s a set of steps to follow to execute a particular skill. In others, it’s free flowing text to describe a concept. If an example will help clarify a point, it’s furnished Charts are provided when needed. In short, the book is written clearly and concisely, with the objective of delivering its material in the most effective way possible – an objective that it fulfills.

You’ll find The Leaders Guide useful regardless of the size of your organization. Someone in a three person firm might have a hard time relating to phrases such as, “Many of your subordinates...,” however, the skills the book teaches are useful whether the reporting structure under you consists of one person or thousands of people.