Leadership Results: Sebastian Salicru (Wiley, 2017)
Having had some previous contact with the author, Sebastian Salicru, I was delighted to be given early sight of his new leadership book, which is sub-titled “how to create adaptive leaders and high-performing organisations for an uncertain world”. He is, after all, a highly-experienced business practitioner and thought leader. He acknowledges the significant importance of effective leadership at a time of uncertainty and turbulence for people in organisations and in positions of authority. This book offers a good explanation of this and a number of personal strategies for adapting to the new reality. For some, it may be a slightly uncomfortable read: for many, it will be enlightening and thought-provoking.
The book opens with a chapter on relationships. No easing-in to the topic from Salicru: he gets to the heart of his thesis early and uses the example of Australian public-sector project alliances to illustrate the role that relationships have in effecting the best possible outcomes. He also alludes to a concept that is developed later in the book; that of the Leadership Psychological Contract. He moves on to the importance of understanding leadership in its organisational and market context: organisational culture gives a clear clue about the likely style of leadership to be found. He moves on to discuss the concept of adaptive leadership (a theorem that was developed and popularised by Ronald Heifetz) before introducing the challenge that different cultures bring to leadership.
There follows a chapter on sense-making and the power of communication in enabling leaders to develop followship. Sense-making is one of the four pillars of leadership, according to Deborah Ancona. Salicru builds on this to describe how differing uses of language can either create congruence between word and action, or confusion. This leads on to a chapter on the misleading nature of some leadership thinking and leadership programmes, where the author makes a useful distinction between leader development and leadership development. The former focuses on core competencies for individuals, whereas the latter places the emphasis on interpersonal, relationship skills-development.
The early part of the book is the hors d’oeuvre for the pivotal fifth chapter, which introduces and explains Salicru’s ‘integrity model’ for leadership, the Leadership Results. This new approach integrates leader and leadership development as well as linking employee engagement to leadership. Doing this results in collective leadership and collaborated outcomes. The role of engagement is illustrated by Salicru in his head-heart-hands model that combines the rational, emotional and behavioural dimensions in which we operate as leaders and which results in leadership impact. What the author describes in support of the rationale for Leadership Results is the effectiveness of relating (enquiring, advocating and connecting) and the benefits of letting-go (c.f. Otto Sharmer’s work on Theory U). Also integral to this model is the Leadership Psychological Contract introduced earlier.
Central to the Leadership Results model is the use of a 360o survey that is both quantitative and qualitative in execution: the former provides the “what’s going on” whilst the latter uncovers the “how” and “why” of what is going on. Undergoing a 360o survey allows for the measurement of leader credibility; the quality of being deemed trustworthy, believable and convincing.
Part 2 of the book focusses on self-leadership and self-development. Self-leadership is “the ability to lead ourselves to achieve the direction and motivation necessary to positively influence our own performance”. Salicru takes an anthropomorphic approach to the subject initially and also evokes the work of Robert Kegan in the description of personal development from transactional to transformational performance. Also referenced is the individuation concept developed by Carl Jung. A starting point for the Salicru is the assertion that traditional approaches to leadership often started with power and money as the underlying drivers. For effective leaders in today’s world, this is not the basis for success. Barriers to successful self-leadership include locus of control, a pessimistic approach, self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophesy.
The author lists several factors that drive effective self-leadership. These include maintaining high self-esteem, playing to strengths, being’ in the flow’ as often as possible, building character (moral ownership, moral courage and moral efficacy), acting with integrity and building psychological capital (internal resources for dealing with challenges). He goes on to talk about the personal framework that one can develop around values, morals and ethics that will shape and characterise our leadership approach. Finally, he devotes some time to self-motivation and the engagement of others.
The book’s third part develops the theme of collective leadership development. This will particularly appeal to all those readers that are in the people-resources and leadership-development space. Collective leadership encourages ‘collaborative, shared, distributed and emergent leadership.’ Chapters 11 and 12 form the core of Salicru’s lessons on leadership development, utilising ideas from a number of sources, both established and more current / leading edge.
Laid out in a very easy-to-read way, with each chapter introduced with an anecdote and concluded with summary comments and insight questions, this is a valuable addition to the admittedly-crowded library of leadership books. Its value comes in the simple insights and clear explanation that Salicru offers. It is a book grounded in anecdote, laced with academic reinforcement and interweaved with real examples that one would happily recommend to leader-colleagues as an introduction to effective leadership without fear of bamboozling or outfacing them.
Reviewer’s rating: 4 out of 5