The book Leadership Code by Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman is in keeping with expectations of people who wish to develop their leadership skills. I had known through the book’s reviews that the authors have achieved an almost unachievable task by having examined an exhaustive amount of information on the issue of leadership. They have provided a remarkable presentation in the book’s seven chapters by having synthesized their findings into five core principles in calling them the Leadership Code. I chose the book because the authors meticulously guide readers on how to make strategies, how to execute them with the involvement of people, how to create a strong foundation of creative people and how to develop with strong leadership qualities.
The book is full of business expressions and is ideal for all people that wish to become powerful leaders. Dave Ulrich is amongst the most renowned authors on the contemporary business environment. The authors have directly given the message that leaders do matter but leadership is more important. They believe that the most experienced and gifted leader engages every person in his team by using his heart, mind and feet. Real leaders are those that involve people for a cause and people follow them for such qualities. Leadership is existent when organizations produce more than just a few leaders because it is not limited to a single individual but to the leadership building process. The authors have not raised questions about the important role of individual leaders but have asserted that a very significant obligation of a leader is to reinforce and introduce sustainability in the processes whereby high impact leaders are identified, hired, developed and retained at all stages and in all fields of the organization. The book deals with the issue of how an organization can transform itself from being just good to great.
In fact, the Leadership Code has responded to two very important issues. First is the proportion of leadership that is the same and whether there are common standards that must be mastered by leaders in all situations. The authors have delved into issues of whether there is a specific and recognized leadership code. The second issue examined in the book is whether there are common standards that should be mastered by all leaders.
In examining such issues the authors have analyzed whether leaders are born or the can be groomed. They offer an integrated process whereby leaders can become better leaders. In outlining the five essential rules of excellent leadership, the authors have devoted a separate chapter for each one. Rule one is about shaping the future and asserts that this quality is present in the strategic aspect of the leader. The authors hold that the strategist envisions a bright future and helps in creating it. In being futurists with a practical approach, strong leaders are able to ascertain organizational needs and test such concepts practically and logically in the context of available resources such as people, capital and organizational competence.
They believe in working with their team in figuring out how to transition from the present to the required potential. The second rule relates to how things can be made to happen. This element of execution stresses upon the issue of how the organization can ascertain the direction that it wants to take. Leaders that execute efficiently are able to transform plans into action and they thoroughly understand how change happens, how accountability is to be assigned, what major decisions are to be taken and which ones to pass on. Effective leaders are able to ensure that their team works in synergy to achieve organizational goals. The third rule pertains to efficiently engaging the available talent. Leaders that make the best use of the available talent are able to take talented people with them in the business process after retaining the right people.
They develop strong organizational, professional and personal devotion towards the organization. Rule four deals with how the next generation can be constructively built. Strong leaders develop human capital by assisting and guiding future leaders to develop high competencies and to become successful. The fifth rule asserts that one should invest in oneself because personal efficiency forms the core of the leadership code. The competency of strong leaders cannot be limited only to what they know and implement.
An important trait of strong leaders pertains to what kind of humans they are and how much they can achieve through their team members. Leaders are characterized as being learners from their experiences with life, people, failures and success. The authors have approached readers on two distinct though interrelated issues in the context of the requirement of effective leadership and how others can be helped in becoming strong leaders. In citing the example of Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, who spends considerable time counseling his executives, the authors have written, “modeling the rules of leadership ensures that you lead well, but helping others master those rules guarantees success” (Ulrich et al, 2009, p.64). The styles used by the authors pertain to establishing and then sustaining a cordial and direct rapport with readers.
The book deals in detail about the leadership issues in virtually acting as a mentor for readers. The authors hold that “the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. As you communicate, you need to consider your audience, tailoring your message differently for the boardroom and the lunchroom, and learn to succeed in both. You need to share your emotions and self, not just your intellectual ideas” (Ulrich et al, 2009, p.85). They hold that in building the next generation leaders have to transform into developers of human capital and that personal proficiency is the eventual canon of strong leadership, which begins with knowing oneself.
Obviously, it can be understood that these revelations are not theoretical but are practical steps to imbibe strong leadership qualities. The book is so meaningful in exhaustively dealing with leadership that the reader is forced to think that it is specifically written for him or her. The book provides considerable information in 180 pages and examines all the five essential elements exhaustively that are thoroughly explained in using practical examples. In the final chapter the authors have explained how strong leaders succeed in adding value to the organization. They introduce a clear theory of leadership that can be adopted by organizations in identifying future leaders in terms of their competence levels. They have suggested the areas in which organizations can make investments to develop leadership at different organizational levels. The authors also provide a framework whereby such principles can be properly aligned in the organization.
They have pointed out that “this leadership code, like any other code, provides both structure and guidance, and helps you know not only what to do to be a better individual leader, but also how to build better leadership capability” (Ulrich et al, 2009, p.94) They have conducted several interviews and a thorough literature review in concluding that almost 70 percent of leadership efficiency can be incorporated in the leadership codes. The synthesis and analysis made by the authors result in creating a structure that they assert is useful, practical and accurate. Although there are many critics that will speak up against the manner in which the authors have depicted a lack of sophistication in conducting their research, the work clearly passes the most significant test pertaining to the value perceptions of leaders that are in the forefront in organizations. The biggest learning from the book is by way of providing a strong basis to make self assessments, while the feedback exercises are very helpful in assisting readers to know the extent to which they fulfill the Leadership Code. In being very well written, appealing and realistic, the book allows readers to develop skills to crack the Leadership Code, thereby taking their leadership to higher levels.
It provides an open environment for all those who are worried in being stopped from sharing their insights and opinions on leadership. The Leadership Code is not for people who wish to quickly get ideas about how they can improve. It is all about thoroughly undergoing a systematic exercise by applying the given ideas to one’s leadership development.
It is also helpful in developing organizations through creating an efficient team of future leaders that will carry the organization towards the path of growth. The Leadership Code is for people who wish to learn and study in challenging themselves.
Ulrich, Dave., Smallwood, Norm.
, and Sweetman Kate. Leadership Code, Harvard Business School Press, 2009.