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Book Review: Leadership – All You Need to Know by David Pendleton and Adrian Furnham

Book Review: Leadership – All You Need to Know by David Pendleton and Adrian Furnham

Book Review: Leadership – All You Need to Know by David Pendleton and Adrian Furnham


Leadership: All You Need To Know

If you have an interest in leadership, the title and cover of this book alone will capture your attention.

 “Everything you need to know” this is a very bold statement by the authors but Pendleton and Furnham do make a very good attempt at providing a sound investigation of the more common classical and contemporary theories of Leadership.

In chapter one, the authors cover the leadership philosophies from the 1900s to the 21st century with even a reference to Plato’s republic (380 BCE).  Clearly not comprehensive, they do give the reader sufficient material to grasp the concepts of each leadership theory and its strengths and weaknesses.  This is enough material to provide the reader with the context for the rest of the book.

There is clear empirical evidence that leadership creates benefit for the organisation.  Chapter 2 explores the value of leadership in particular, the Hay McBer review of the 6 distinct leadership styles and their value on performance. What is notable about this discussion is the analysis indicates visionary and affiliate styles of leadership provide best results, but current organisational development is focused on developing the coaching approach to leadership.  Perhaps this is due to the ease of which coaching can be applied and the return on investment for effort expended.

Chapter 3 presents Pendleton’s Primary Colours Model and explores the 3 domains in which leadership operates:

  • Strategic
  • Operational
  • Interpersonal

Several case studies explore the model but what is clear from the analysis is that a leader is unlikely to be able to excel in each domain. A duck can fly walk and swim but do none well.  So a leader that has a good strategic view is unlikely to excel in the detail level of operations.

The 5 tasks of a leader are covered next; to inspire, to focus, to enable, to reinforce and to learn. But having explained that a leader is unlikely to be a complete leader, excelling in all aspects of the Primary Colours Model, the author’s explore how leaders can identify their own strengths.  This provides the opportunity to exploit their strengths and also look to supplement the leadership team with others with complimentary strengths to build a leadership team (Chapter7).

Pendleton and Furnham then explore the importance of intelligence in leadership and discuss the various types of intelligence. IQ, EQ and business / managerial intelligence are all covered however, there is a general recognition that many of these ‘intelligences’ are actually competences.

Personality (chapter 8) also has a part to play in the effectiveness and motivational influence of leaders. There are several ideas explored within the ‘impact of personality’ chapter, including the Five Factors Model where openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism are al considered as part of the assessment of job performance and staff selection. Here is also an interesting exploration of personality disorders and leadership characteristics.  While there is correlation between many disorders and leadership characteristics, there is no significant causal link established.  What is possible is that some leaders become so because their personality disorder engages people and results in them having a position of leadership.

The author’s conclusion is that Successful Leaders tend to be stable, conscientious, open, engaging / extroverted and generally agreeable.

To conclude the book, our authors offer a program of action to:

  • Address the 3 domains of leadership interest; Strategic, Operational and Interpersonal.
  • Balance the limitation that no single leader is world class in each area.
  • The personality of the leader affects their influence on the team.
  • Strong leadership can come from a collection of leaders with complimentary strengths.

Although termed an action plan, it is more a case study into the development of a mid-seniority manager during a career change. This approach offers a number of insights and applications of the various analysis tools and models explored earlier and offers guidance on how the models can be used to develop your own leadership. Clearly the case study provides a successful outcome to support the main body of the book and doesn’t cover many additional challenges that reality may offer up.

Overall this book does offer a great insight into contemporary leadership against a comprehensive review of the history of leadership thought.  Quite academic, there are some good case studies and a simple final case study to explore a potential action plan, the authors do provide some good guidance on the analysis potential of the models and the conclusions that can be drawn.

While perhaps the title of ‘all you need to know’ is a perhaps a little overconfident, this book is one of the better analyses of leadership, its styles and models currently available. Well worth the read for those interested in the theoretical aspects of leadership and how such models can be applied for personal development and improving personal performance.

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