Leadership BS Book Summary - Leadership BS Book explained in key points
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Leadership BS summary

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time

3.6 (299 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer exposes the harsh truth of leadership industry, where there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead of vague theories, it emphasizes on pragmatic approach and emphasizes on power, politics, and practicality of leadership.

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    Leadership BS
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    We’ve built myths around popular business leaders that prevent new leaders from succeeding.

    Business gurus are a lot like preachers. But instead of delivering comforting myths about a divine, benevolent being, they spread myths about heroic business leaders and the secrets of their ways.

    These heroic stories have manufactured appealing images, reputations and legacies, but they fall far short of giving a realistic portrait.

    Take the story of former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. The stories have painted him as a man who valued every employee, always instilled confidence in his subordinates and promoted long-term strategies and vision for GE. What the stories tend to leave out is the term “GE jerks,” which former employees used to describe the kind of worker that existed under Welch’s leadership.

    Welch had what was referred to as a “rank and yank” policy: every year the bottom 10 percent of GE’s managers would be fired regardless of their overall career performance. This made GE managers ruthless and unpleasant as they desperately chased results.

    Other details that business gurus also tend to leave out include the pollution lawsuits filed against GE, the corporation’s price-fixing schemes and the cases of fraud that went on during his reign.

    When we create flawless biographies of figures like Jack Welch, it’s really a detriment since people will invariably come to the conclusion that they couldn’t possibly live up to their legacy. As a result, people don’t even bother trying.

    When author Michael Dyson wrote a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., he didn’t shy away from mentioning his adultery because he felt it was important not to mythologize our leaders. King’s imperfections are what make King more relatable and human, and therefore more inspirational as a historical figure.

    To realize that our heroes also have flaws is vital to our ability to feel as though we’re able to follow in their footsteps and bring about social change in our community. We need to understand that great things can indeed be achieved by imperfect people.

    On the other hand, presenting inspirational figures as flawless keeps real change from ever occurring – the problems persist and the gurus stay in business.

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    What is Leadership BS about?

    Leadership BS (2015) looks at the dirty world of business executives to see what life’s really like at the top of the corporate ladder. What we find is something quite different than the squeaky-clean image most motivational leadership gurus and CEO biographies will try to sell you. Discover what a nasty business you’ll really have to get into if you want to become a successful leader in today’s cutthroat business world.

    Best quote from Leadership BS

    The story about young George Washington and the cherry tree was likely an invention by one of Washingtons biographers to promote his book.

    —Jeffrey Pfeffer
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    Who should read Leadership BS?

    • Managers, bosses and anyone interested in leadership skills
    • Readers interested in social science
    • Students of business

    About the Author

    Jeffrey Pfeffer is a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has taught many classes on effective human-resource management. Today, he is considered one of the world’s leading management experts, with published research on organizational power that goes back nearly 30 years. He is also the author of Power, which details how readers can successfully wield power in their everyday lives.

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