Leading at a Higher Level by Ken Blanchard

Blanchard is one of those leadership gurus, famous for the One Minute Manager series of books and books of that ilk. Leading at a Higher Level is basically all the insights of those books injected into one super-book. So while it loses that narrative format that the One Minute books are famous for what you gain is a library of insights for a fraction of the cost.

One of the strong themes throughout is the focus he has on empowerment as the key to high performing organisations. He’s very big on a largely decentralised leadership philosophy where both power and responsibility are pushed down the organisation to the frontlines.

Blanchard views the role of the leader as breaking down into 2 main spheres: setting the vision and target and then implementing and managing the journey to that destination. And so the first sphere involves a declarative and authoritative vision-casting style of leadership. And once that has been communicated and understood then the role of the leader shifts to a more person-focussed and task-focussed style he calls Situational Leadership (my own take on this can be found here and here). I think there’s so much to like in this whole outlook. He probably overstate and simplifies all this, as I would think you need to be constantly casting and re-casting the vision rather than doing it once and then moving on. And I think Blanchard would probably agree. But still there’s lots to like here.

The Situational Leadership II model is basically integral for everything else in the book as almost every other facet is integrated into the 4 quadrants of Situational Leadership. So obviously this makes that model highly powerful, but at the same time if that model is undermined then the whole thing is in jeopardy.

Being as there’s only 4 quadrants the temptation is to criticise Situational Leadership II as simplistic or reductionistic. In my view those criticisms are almost certainly true but also irrelevant. I mean, it’s a model. It’s supposed to be simplistic and reductionistic. The fact that Situational Leadership II is both those 2 things doesn’t undermine it. Of course it’s simplistic. It’s a model. The question is does the model have explanatory and predictive power? I think it does.

All the One Minute Manager books clock in at about $20 each but you can pick this book up, containing the bulk of the content of at least 7 of those other Blanchard books, for something like $25. It’s totally worth doing.

It costs about $40 from Dymocks, so instead I’d go with buying it from either Amazon or BookDepository for about AU$25 including shipping.