Leadership Transformed: A book review by Bob Morris

Leadership TransLeadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders
Peter Fuda
New Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2013)

How and why leadership transformation can only be understood by thinking holistically.

There are at least two ways to view the title of this book and Peter Fuda may have had both in mind while writing it: the transformation of an individual leader’s skills, and, the process by which a non-leader can develop those skills. During a period of several years, Fuda and his associates conducted rigorous research on leaders of CEO status who had succeeded in “transforming themselves, their leadership teams, and their organizations.” He sought to develop “a rich and contextual understanding of leadership through their eyes.” What he learned is provided in this book.

More specifically, the research uncovered seven distinct yet interdependent metaphors and Fuda devotes a separate chapter to each: Fire (ambition: “burning platform” and “burning ambition”), Snowball (“virtuous cycle” of accountability and momentum), Master Chef (frameworks, tools, and strategies to progress from apprentice to master), Coach (obtaining support and feedback to achieve aspirations), Mask (authenticity and transparency rather than deception), Movie (self-reflection), and Russian Dolls (coordinating multiple and simultaneous journeys of discovery and development). As Fuda observes, “I firmly believe that these seven metaphors represent a unique way of addressing the fairly common challenge of leadership transformation in a fresh and unconventional way.”

The number and nomenclature of his metaphors –- and any others — are much less important than how they help us to transform the way we think about leadership. For example, as I worked my way through his narrative, I was reminded of one of Roger von Oech’s books, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants (2000), in which he discusses four leadership roles that could also be viewed as metaphors: Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior. I was also reminded Howard Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences, discussed in books such as Five Minds for the Future (2007). With only slight modification, Gardner’s five metaphors would be Disciplinarian, Synthesizer, Creator, Diplomat, and Arbitrator. Because effective leadership involves multiple roles, leadership transformation must therefore be multi-dimensional…and the process is never-ending.

These are among the dozens of business subjects of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Fuda’s coverage.

o The Fire Matrix (Pages 6-8)
o The Four Quadrants of the Fire Matrix (8-21)
o A Cycle of Mutual Accountability, and, Creating Unstoppable Momentum (30-43)
o The Master Chef Recipe: Frameworks (55-60)
o Five Strategies for Leadership Transformation (71-74)
o The Coaching Staff (86-94)
o The Phantom of the Opera (109-110)
o The Impact of De-Masking (120-122)
o Ground Hog Day (132-135)
o Directing the Movie (145-151)
o Dolls-Within-Dolls (163-168)
o Painting a Story on the Dolls (177-182)

When concluding his book, Fuda extends two invitations: “I invite you to make these metaphors your own. I encourage you to identify your own burning ambition, to create a snowball of accountability around your drive to it, to create a tasty recipe of frameworks, tools, and strategies, to sign up a trusted coaching staff, to drop any masks that are preventing you from moving forward, to constantly review and edit your story as a movie director would, and to align your own leadership journey with others that surround you.” He also invites his reader to access additional resources and share experiences at the website and email address provided on Page 190.

With regard to the title of this brief commentary, my intention is to suggest that leadership transformation is best understood in context, within a frame of reference, that takes into full account the complexities of both the individuals involved and their respective circumstances. That is why Peter Fuda suggests that his seven metaphors are interdependent…and that is why Walt Whitman observes in Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

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