Zenger and Folkman, The Extraordinary Leader

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John H. Zenger and Joseph Folkman, The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders. Second Revised Edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009.

Referenced in: Strengths-Based Leadership

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

This is a highly-recognized text based on the study of a large population of leaders (200,000-plus). It underscores that leadership can be learned. It is matter of knowing what tendencies to overcome and what traits to develop. The focus, however, should be on strengths, not weaknesses. This is an excellent example of the strengths-based philosophy of leadership development.

From the Publisher

A No-Nonsense, Battle-Tested Program for Developing Exceptional Leadership Skills – Both In Your Organization and Yourself

The ability to lead, far more than just a natural gift, is a concrete and learnable skill – one that can be acquired by studying and applying specific proficiencies and attitudes. The Extraordinary Leader draws on responses from 200,000 questionnaires to define the skills that comprise effective leadership, and then provides a systematic and innovative program for attaining, developing, and implementing those skills.

For too long, the subject of effective leadership has been shrouded in fog and ambiguity. The Extraordinary Leader removes the shroud to reveal leadership as a skill, one that can be consciously learned and developed by anyone. This breakthrough book identifies the competencies necessary for effective leadership, not by guessing or postulating but by analyzing the responses of tens of thousands of workforce members as they describe, in effect, “What makes a great leader?”

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman – two of today’s preeminent leadership experts analyze the answers and provide a broad and universal model for achieving exceptional results. They outline the five core competencies that form the basis for successful leadership and detail techniques that include:

  • Methods that top organizations use to develop leaders from within their own ranks
  • Key competencies that leaders must have and techniques for mastering them
  • Practical steps for developing your own leadership skills

A major weakness in most leadership development programs has been the tendency to aim low and strive for incremental improvements in individual areas of weakness. When the results inevitably fail to impact the bottom line, organizations abandon programs as unsuccessful and again resume their misguided focus on uncovering and eliminating leadership weaknesses instead of identifying and developing leadership strengths. The Extraordinary Leader instead focuses on the ability in fact the necessity for individuals to hone their leadership competencies in multiple areas, and organizations to develop great leaders in as many areas as possible. It provides research-based strategies for strengthening leadership both in individuals and in organizations and, in the process, delivers a solid yet flexible leadership development program that will provide long-term value to virtually any organization.

Editorial Reviews

“The Extraordinary Leader attacks cherished but unsupportable assumptions, and does it persuasively, precisely, and professionally. Through their exceptional research the authors demonstrate and prove that leadership does make a difference, and that you can learn to lead.” —James M. Kouzes, Chairman Emeritus, Tom Peters Company, Coauthor, The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart

“This is a ‘must read’ for coaches, leaders, and those who develop them. The Extraordinary Leader goes beyond anecdotes or ‘war stories,’ it builds upon comprehensive research. It is destined to be a classic in our field.” — Marshall Goldsmith, Named by Forbes as one of five top executive coaches and one of Wall Street Journal’s “Top 10” executive educators

“Extraordinarily readable! This book represents some of the best thinking on leadership I’ve seen in a long while.” — E. David Spong, President, Military Aerospace Support, The Boeing Company

About the Authors

John H. Zenger, D.B.A., is CEO of Zenger Folkman, a firm that helps organizations and individuals improve leadership effectiveness that, in turn, drives business results. These results include increasing employee engagement, retention, productivity, and bottom-line profitability. He is a member of the HRD Hall of Fame and has authored or coauthored eight books and 50 articles on leadership, productivity, and teams.

Joseph R. Folkman, Ph.D., is president of Zenger Folkman. He is an authoritative voice on the subject of creating and using employee surveys to create organizational change and 360- degree feedback assessment for individual development. Folkman is the author of three books: Turning Feedback into Change, Making Feedback Work, and Employee Surveys That Make a Difference.

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