Best Practices For Leadership As A Business Fable

By Amanda Earing, News Editor, Manufacturing.Net The Offsite, by Robert H. Thompson, is a fable that details how a group of executives and their teams learn to implement the “Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” from the management classic The Leadership Challenge during a critical offsite meeting. Thompson shares with Manufacturing.net in this interview the keys to good leadership.

“Leadership is not about being the boss, or telling people what to do, or having all the right answers. It’s about passion, personal commitment and eliminating the gap between beliefs and behaviors,” says Robert H. Thompson, author of The Offsite, a new book coming out March 21st that debunks many long-held myths about leadership.

Written in the form of a fable, The Offsite is based on Thompson’s 25-year career as a journalist, entrepreneur, seminar leader and executive coach, as well as theories from the management classic, The Leadership Challenge.

Manufacturing.net got the chance recently to speak with Thompson, who is also founder of Applied Performance, a leadership and personal communication services company, to learn more about his book and what makes a good leader.

Mnet: Your book shows how a group of executives and their team learn to implement the practices from the management classic The Leadership Challenge during a critical offsite meeting. Why did you decide to write this book in the form of a fictional fable?

Thompson: I find that people enjoy and relate to a story format — it’s a quick read. While traveling, someone could pick up a copy on the West or East Coast and by the time they get to their destination, they either will have some information refreshed or learn something new from reading the book.

Mnet: Are any of your characters based on real people or situations?

Thompson: Some of the characters are based on some people I’ve met — colleagues or friends. There’s also a little bit of me in some of the characters too. I’ve learned it’s almost impossible to not quite include yourself and others close to you in a story or its characters in some small way.

Mnet: What prompted you to write this book?

Thompson: I have been working in the leadership field now for about 15 years and I have been in business for over 30 years.  I’ve known Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, since the early 1990s and I’ve also worked for many years with the Tom Peters Company.

I read a lot on leadership and just immersed myself in the study and practical application of the topic. Much of what I share in the book is the experiences that I’ve had with being in the seats of various organizations at all levels — from the entry-level position to the top spot, and everything in between. 

Mnet: What are the leadership myths mentioned in the book?
 
Thompson: There are many myths regarding leadership qualities, but these five stand out:
  1. Leadership and management are the same thing. People define leadership as a tool of management, and I say that’s a myth. Leadership is the core, and management is the tool. I tend to say that leadership is about people, and management is about things.
  2. Leadership is something you can laminate and hang on the wall, and it will have a profound impact on your staff.  That’s absolutely a myth.
  3. An open door policy creates a good leader. That’s a myth because an “always” open door policy creates a stream of people lined up to get “the answer” to their problem(s). Therefore, they never have to learn to critically think through a situation.
  4. Being promoted is always best. Sometimes people take promotions because they think it is socially acceptable and they need to do that, but then they move further away from the things they totally love to do.
  5. You can praise too much. Too many managers feel that praise is overdone. “They get paid, don’t they? That should be praise enough.” is a popular refrain. Overwhelming research shows that specific, meaningful praise is crucial to building great relationships, and it does affect the bottom line.

Mnet: What research was used to come up with ‘The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership’?

Thompson: The content is based on 20 years of research from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner and a few other colleagues.  I have worked with them for so many years and their work has been such a foundation for me. The five practices are based on the best practices of real people and not just the celebrity CEOs of the world. A lot of research has been done and can be found at www.leadershipchallenge.com that shows these five practices are truly the keys to closing the gap between your beliefs and your behaviors.

Mnet: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?

Thompson: I hope they understand that leadership is a choice and not a position. It’s not something that comes with a title — that’s a level of authority and decision making, but not real leadership. Reminding leaders to consistently ask those around them what they can do more of, less of, stop doing, start doing, is key to being a better leader. That’s probably one of the more important things that leaders don’t do. During workshops for The Leadership Challenge we find that particular question — asking how I’m doing as a leader — is just not a focus for those in authority positions yet it should be.

Mnet: Why should people read your book?

Thompson: From my many years working with folks around the globe, I find that there’s a lot of people struggling out there. We’re all looking for people that we can look up to and causes we’d like to join that are meaningful. And there are a lot of people confused as to what the leadership process is really about. They’re unaware or have forgotten that there is a leader inside them too. It’s not about that title or position — and especially not about the clothes you wear. It’s about discovering who you are and what matters to you, and finding your passion.
 
Leadership is about showing up as the real you, finding your voice in your own actions and becoming a deserving leader. I think people will find The Offsite will assist people in discovering a new direction in which to lead and in an entertaining way too. Everyone can be a leader if they want to be, and it is something that is inside of us all.

Mnet: When and where will the book be available?

Thompson: It will be available by March 21st in all bookstores. It’s currently available at 1-800-CEO-READ and can also be preordered on Amazon.com.

For more information about The Offsite, visit www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470189827.html

For more information about The Leadership Challenge workshops and books, visit www.leadershipchallenge.com
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