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Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn from Experience to Become a Great Leader [Hardcover]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   264
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.4" Width: 6.5" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.25 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 24, 2008
Publisher   Harvard Business School Press
ISBN  1591391377  
EAN  9781591391371  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Concludes that what matters most is what one makes of experience, particularly the traumatic and unplanned crucible events that challenge one's identity as a leader. This book offers self-assessments and tools designed to help you develop your own Personal Learning Strategy. It includes examples from business, politics, and also the Mormon Church.

Buy Crucibles of Leadership: How to Learn from Experience to Become a Great Leader by Robert J. Thomas from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781591391371 & 1591391377

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More About Robert J. Thomas

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Thomas is an Accenture partner and executive director of Accenture's Institute for High Performance Business in Cambridge, MA. He specializes in transformational organizational and technological change. He is co-author with Warren Bennis of Leading for a Lifetime: How Defining Moments Shape Leaders of Today and Tomorrow (Harvard Business Press).

Robert J. Thomas has an academic affiliation as follows - Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Department of Pulmonar.

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Life Lessons Learned and Life Lessons Shared  Aug 14, 2008

Robert Thomas is the co-author with Warren Bennis of Geeks & Geezers, later reissued as Leading for a Lifetime with a new introduction. In it, he and Bennis respond to this question: "Why are some people able to extract wisdom from experience, however harsh, and others are not?" They asked successful geeks to share the secrets of their youthful triumphs and distinguished geezers to tell them how they continue to stay active and engaged despite the changes wrought by age. They selected and then interviewed a group of 43 effective leaders, ranging in age from 21 to 93. Their research also included others who were not interviewed. As many as possible of the interviews were videotaped because Bennis and Thomas knew that "taping would preserve a wealth of information that no transcript could capture."

They developed a theory that describes, they believe for the first time, how leaders come to be. "We believe that we have identified the process that allows an individual to undergo testing and to emerge, not just stronger, but better equipped with the tools he or she needs both to lead and to learn. It is a model that explains how individuals make meaning out of difficult events -- we call them [begin italics] crucibles [end italics] -- and how that process of 'meaning making' both galvanizes individuals and gives them their distinctive voice." They cite and then discuss a number of individuals who underwent that process and, as a result, became highly-effective leaders.

What we have in this volume is Thomas' further development of many of the core concepts shared in his earlier works as he shifts his focus to exploring "what life is like inside a crucible" to suggest various ways "to leverage the critical formative and transformative experiences that men and women have in their own lives that can reveal to them who they are and where they stand." Also, "to illuminate the process by which leaders learn and the skills and circumstances that accelerate their learning."

Thomas responds to even more specific questions such as these:

1. How to find what matters most in experience?
2. How to extract insights from that experience?
3. Why is having an "adaptive capacity" (i.e. resilience) so important?
4. How and why "can practice trump talent"?
5. How to recognize and transform crucible experiences?
6. What does a candid self-assessment involve and why is it imperative?
7. How to formulate a personal learning strategy?
8. How to formulate an experience-based leadership development program?
9. How to align organizational needs with individual capabilities?
10. Which issues must be addressed when preparing the next generation of leaders?

Thomas includes several dozen real-world examples of individuals who were able or unable to "extract wisdom from experience, however harsh." He also examines a number of exemplary companies that have designed and implemented an experience-based leadership development program. Although the details are best revealed within his narrative, in context, I will include three brief excerpts from the final chapter because they provide at least an indication of the thrust and flavor of Thomas' thinking.

"It is essential that organizations do more than compose lists of desired leadership competencies and address them through a menu of courses and workshops. They must also encourage each individual - or, at a minimum, each individual who aspires to a leadership role - to craft a [Personal Learning Strategy] and to use it as a living document, not something sketched once and set aside."

"If deep learning of the sort we encounter in crucibles is an important part of a leader's journey, and if strong emotions commonly accompany deep learning, then we need to know that strong emotions are very likely to be a part of leader development. If learning from experience is not a desirable part of leader development, then we can ignore it and hope it goes away; if we elect to pursue an experience-based approach to leader development, our only alternative is to find ways to work with emotions."

"Leaders must adapt and learn if they are to fulfill what we expect of them, and - if this study is any guide - if they are to fulfill what they expect of themselves. Albert Einstein put it best when he said, `Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.'"

Please review the list of ten questions provided earlier. Note that the word "how" is used to introduce seven of them. Although I would never describe this volume as a "how to" book, Thomas does identify and then explore a number of key issues for his reader to consider when determining whether or not an experience-based leadership development program would be appropriate for her or his organization. If the decision is at least a tentative "yes," he then offers a wealth of practical suggestions (strategies, tactics, do's, don'ts, etc.) that will guide and inform the design of such a program. I need to add that some of the most valuable advice in this book is provided by those men and women who took full advantage of a "crucible" as a learning opportunity. What they learned helped to take them to a higher level of performance. The lessons to be learned from their personal experiences can help others to do so, also.

* * * * *

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out the aforementioned Geeks & Geezers or the renamed reissue, Leading for a Lifetime, as well as The Talent Powered Organization that Thomas co-authored with Peter Cheese and Elizabeth Craig. Also Bill George's Authentic Leadership and his more recent True North, Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, Chip Conley's Peak, and Resonant Leadership co-authored by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.
Truly, the only book you need to read on leadership  Aug 13, 2008
I've had my share of reading many different business leadership books. They roughly divide into two categories: 1) exposition of things/principles that you need to do and live in order to become a better and 2) reviews of successful companies or events and gleaning, in hindsight, principles of success. Regarding category 2, isn't the case that in hindsight, everyone is a genius? In general, these books are not very helpful because the basic premise of leadership is leading in a situation where the future is unknown. What worked in one successful situation, will not work in another situation. Regarding category 1, these types of books are bit more helpful than category 2 books. After reading one book of category 1, all of the others begin to sound the same. I hope that I saved you some money with this advice.

This book is different from the rest in that it hits the nail on the head by focusing on the fact that it is the experiences themselves that serves as that rare window into what you are made of as a person. After all, it's you not Jack Welch that will be doing the leading and you're going to have know what you're made of and what your character and strengths/weaknesses are. It's the crucibles of life such as a demotion or, God forbid, the death of a loved one, that you begin to really see what you are made of. This book gives a greater reason to embrace challenges and situations that would force you out of your comfort zone.
Filling in the Blanks  Jun 28, 2008
In 2002, Robert Thomas (the author of this book) and Warren Bennis discovered something important about how leaders developed. They had set out to determine the differences and similarities between young leaders (geeks) and older leaders (geezers).

But the key finding of their book, Geeks and Geezers, turned out to be the importance of the defining moments that shape leaders. Thomas and Bennis called those moments "crucibles."

Crucibles are emotionally charged situations that produce great learning and growth in some leaders. This was something a lot of us knew intuitively, but no one had ever stated or supported with research.

Once upon a time we believed that you could learn leadership from books and classes. Then, slowly, it dawned on the leadership development community that you can learn about leadership from a book or in class, but you learn leadership on the job.

Some of us call that the Apprenticeship Model. And the "academy companies" like GE, Pepsico, and P & G have taken to it with gusto. They've made developmental assignments a core part of their leadership development programs.

Robert Thomas decided to dig deeper into the phenomenon of crucibles. This book shares the results of that research. There are four key findings.

Crucibles contain two vital lessons, not just one. The second lesson is how to learn.

Practice can trump talent.

Outstanding leaders devise a strategy for transforming crucibles into learning.

Organizations can grow leaders faster by helping them learn from experience.

The book is divided into three parts. The first, Experience Matters--But Then What? includes the first four chapters. You'll learn about why some people seem to thrive and grow during a crucible experience while others wither.

There's excellent material on how to learn from a crucible experience and turn it to good. This also where you'll learn about the three types of crucibles.

In part two, Crafting a Personal Learning Strategy, Thomas gets down to the business of teaching us how to learn to be better leaders. The idea is to learn the basic lessons from an experience that you can pass on to others. There are several self-assessments for you to use.

There's another finding here that's very powerful. For leaders, as for other practitioners of a performing art, learning and doing are often one and the same. While you are doing, you are learning. And you learn by performing.

The final major section of the book, The Big Picture, lays out the lessons that organizations can learn from this research when they put together their own leadership development programs.

This is an excellent book. It brings together a number of insights that seem obvious once you've heard them, but that still make you say, "Yes!! That's exactly it!"

Buried in here is a finding that I think is a "missing link" in leadership development. It's the idea that learning and doing are often the same activity for leaders and others who practice performing arts.

If you are a leader, this book will show you how to learn from your experience and get the most value and growth from it. If you are responsible for leadership development for others, you'll learn how to use the natural way that people learn to lead as a core of your program.
Techniques and achievements of successful leaders around the world  May 8, 2008
CRUCIBLES OF LEADERSHIP: HOW TO LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE TO BECOME A GREAT LEADER provides keys to understanding leadership qualities and practices, through finding meaning in adversity and using such experiences to improve and change performance. The techniques and achievements of successful leaders around the world are profiled in stories of leadership ranging from the business world to political and religious circles. An outstanding survey.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
Experiences can transform  Apr 4, 2008
Recently I read a book called Crucibles of Leadership - how to learn from experience to become a great leader by Robert J. Thomas. I found the title to be interesting and when I did an informal poll, most people did not know what a crucible was. (It is a vessel that is used by chemists. Originally in medieval days it was used by alchemists (people trying to make gold out of base metals.)) People's definitions were from being a bowl to a religious symbol.

One troubling thing about the title is that alchemist were never successful so does this mean that these crucibles of leadership won't work?

The gist of the thesis is that often it takes a transformative occurrence to transform a leader who in turns transforms a company.

According to Warren Bennis in the Forward of the book:

This invaluable book reminds us that talent is only the beginning of greatness, that leading and learning are inextricably linked, and that the crucibles that break some people can give rise to serial leaders and learners as well.

Three qualities, in particular, stood out as common to outstanding leaders, young and old:

Adaptive capacity is the ability to learn - about yourself, about the world around you, about what it takes to adjust to, and to make, change.

Engaging others through shared meaning is teaching and, in turn, listening - being an interactive leader, one who can enlist as well as command, and one who is capable of mobilizing the best in people through shared vision.

Integrity is about knowing what you stand for - possessing a strong moral compass - and having the courage of your convictions; it is a process of self-knowledge that provides a core identity and a spine that remains strong even when circumstances demand that you adapt. Integrity is what keeps the leader from becoming a hollow dissembler of a leaf in the wind.

Often a crucible was not just the experience but people gained insight into how they learned.

I liked the short clip about Sydney Harman (founder of Harman-Kardon) who spoke about how his daily journalling gave him insights into what was on his mind.

Surgeon Atul Gawand underscores the central role of practice: People often assume that you have to have great hands to become a surgeon, but it's not true. It is practice that builds skill. I know I need to practice more on those things I which to excel in.

I liked how positive the book was. Even bad experiences can lead to greatness and learning. I liked the books focus on learning and change. It meshes with my belief that as long as I can learn, adapt, change and grow, I can succeed. It is growth that is one of my primary drivers.

Interesting book.

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