Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time (Harper Business, 2015)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a book that is actually about business, something I try to do from time to time (even though frequent readers know I trend toward historical fiction). Casting about for something to write about for this post, the perfect subject presented itself in a high-gloss alumni magazine that appears in my mailbox every other month. 

It seems a professor at Stanford Business School, Jeffrey Pfeffer, has written a somewhat iconoclastic analysis of the business leadership industry. Perfect. When it comes to business reading, my view (which I share with any number of our entrepreneurial clients) is this: The more iconoclastic, the better. The title—Leadership BS—makes it pretty clear whose ox is going to be gored. 

This is a read that doesn’t disappoint. The premise is simply stated. “Much of the oft-repeated conventional wisdom about leadership is based more on hope than reality, on wishes rather than data, on beliefs rather than science.” I don’t want to ruin the reading experience for anyone. Suffice it to say that Pfeffer produces example after illuminating example supporting this view.

However negative this may sound, Pfeffer’s intent is actually far from doom and gloom. His purpose, he writes, “is for the next decades of what goes on in the workplace and in people’s careers to be, optimistically, a lot more humane and beneficent than the last decades have been.” How many of us and our entrepreneurial clients would not like to see this?

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