The one-sentence summary

Smart leaders set a course, assume it will change, and try to get lots of people to show leadership qualities.


  • The authors have three main influences; psychologists and other leadership writers, writers with unusual insights, and philosophers who have pondered the human condition
  • They describe the point of leadership as being “to initiate change and make it feel like progress”
  • Leaders need to adopt a cause but should not plan the future
  • Leadership is not always necessary – the need for it varies over time
  • Leadership is a culture, not a person
  • Managers achieve objectives. Leaders work to a purpose
  • Managers defer decisions. Leaders take them
  • Don’t be too consensual about consensus


  • It is full of good advice and inspiring quotes such as:

~ “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”

~ “Now that I am CEO, what am I supposed to do?”

~ “The only real training for leadership is leadership.”

~ “Leadership has a harder job than just choose sides. It must bring sides together.”

  • The Triangle of Tensions summarises the struggle of leaders well. It includes:

~ The Individual Identity – who the leader really is

~ The Canned Role – the formal expectations

~ The Emergent Process – the messy reality

  • Personal mastery of this is only achieved via Learner Leadership, a never-ending circle of self-awareness, learning, judging, acting and mobilising


  • The orientation of the book leans towards money making as the desired outcome of successful leadership –this is clearly not its only value
  • The authors claim that it is impossible to have too much leadership in an organisation – not all would agree
  • There is a rather strange chapter on the value of using story-telling to encourage people to follow your chosen direction, which needs to be treated with caution