Leadership without Easy Answers

by Ronald A. Heifetz. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994.

Leaders who want more than “Six Secrets of Successful Leaders, Easily Digested” will consider this work by a physician, psychiatrist, musician, and lecturer in public policy. As a physician Heifetz holds that most problems arise in complex systems and that human behavior is largely adaptive. As a psychiatrist he believes that authority is for service, not dominance, and that patients faced with the truth have enormous capacity to change. As a musician he believes in the importance of dissonance, silence, and access to emotions. As a lecturer he draws on experiences of working with public policy students to posit, develop, and test theories. He makes two key distinctions regarding leadership: that between technical and adaptive problems (which require different modes of action), and that between leadership and authority. The bulk of the book works through these distinctions in both theoretical and practical ways. Although not aimed at religious leaders, this book’s focus on adaptive leadership will be useful to them.