Leadership, Leaders, and Leading
reviewed by Jill Cabrera - September 20, 2021
Like the bright lightbulb shining on the cover of Sims new book, the content of Leadership, Leaders, and Leading illuminates readers understanding of key leadership topics, principles, and roles. The book is rooted in traditional and contemporary theories, and bridges to the pressing current landscape in which leaders face rapid-paced change as well as issues of crisis and sustainability. As a leadership professor and consumer of many writings on leadership, this book is a new staple in my professional library.
True to the statement in the books preface, chapters may be read in or out of sequence because each one focuses on a core leadership topic. In each chapter, Sims clearly summarizes fundamental theoretical concepts for the topic and follows with a sound discussion of ways to practice principles of effective leadership. New and experienced leaders looking for answers to complex issues will find clear explanations of terms and concepts, steps of processes, strategies to implement, and questions for reflection. Additionally, readers will discover pitfalls to avoid as they lead, as well as discussions of common myths which are dispelled with evidence and sound reasoning. The book serves as an actionable resource for leaders in planning ahead as well as addressing current issues or dilemmas.
Following an introductory chapter on leadership definitions and concepts, topics in the early chapters focus on foundational leadership aspects including vision and strategic planning, ethical considerations, and human resource management. In Chapter 2, the author highlights the importance of vision and provides a guide for strategic planning processes. Sims compellingly asserts that Strategic planning links and synchronizes actions at all levels of the organization, resulting in leaders and followers who understand where they are heading and why their day-to-day actions matter (p. 48). Addressing the topic of ethical leadership can be daunting, especially when training aspiring leaders; however, in Chapter 3, Sims adeptly enlightens the reader on what ethics is and is not, and examines ethics from the individual, leadership, organizational, and macro levels. As in other chapters, thought-provoking questions are posed to deepen readers consideration of ethical concepts. Taking the discussion further, the author considers ways to sustain ethical organizational climates with an emphasis on leading with high integrity wherein leader behaviors are congruent with core values of the organization.
The book clearly conveys the value of people within organizations and consistently addresses how to balance the interests of the employees, customers, and leaders associated with the organization. Chapters 5 through 8 explore motivation of employees as well as working with individuals, groups, and teams within organizations to achieve goals. In Chapter 6, Sims poses the important question, Whats a leader without followers? (p. 196) and casts light on the flip side of leadershipfollowership. He describes characteristics of excellent followers and explores not only what leaders need from followers but also what followers need from leaders. In conclusion, the author states, Organizations have a responsibility to focus as much attention on followership skills as they do on leadership skills (p. 223).
In Chapter 7, Sims discusses ways to foster development of organizational members through sound practices of setting goals, coaching, and providing constructive feedback. In what seems like a must read section for new and aspiring leaders, Sims asserts how vital the skill of delegation is in fostering the growth of others and developing leaders within organizations. An exploration of why leaders avoid delegation is followed by an articulate set of guiding principles for leaders to more effectively delegate. This chapter also elucidates the role of coaching as well as facilitating each individuals growth through Individual Development Planning.
With the contemporary views of fostering leadership teams and sustainable leadership within organizations, Chapter 8 seems to be especially helpful for organizational leaders. The author explains the terms of groups and teams, providing similarities as well as distinguishing characteristics. Subsequently, Sims helps the reader understand how to foster development of teams and formal groups that are not only functional but also productive. Cautionary information is included such as common leadership mistakes and common problems for team members, as well as characteristics associated with high- or low-performing teams. Principles are outlined for effectively building and leading teams.
Sims devotes Chapter 9 to communication, in which he states, Leaders must understand and leverage communication in everything they do. Effective communication and leadership leads to better understanding, sustained trust, positive relations, good work environment, motivated employees, improved team coordination, and ongoing productivity improvement (p. 337). The last five chapters address topics of conflict, negotiation, and organizational politics; change leadership; reputation and crisis management; cybersecurity; and sustainability.
Perhaps one of the more timely chapters in Leadership, Leaders, and Leading is on the topic of change. In recent decades, the rate of societal and organizational change has accelerated, resulting in a greater need for competent change leadership. Taking into consideration the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as one example, organizational leaders have already encountered and will continue to face many unprecedented changes. Sims (2021) lights the way for leaders by explaining the nature of change, outlining various change models, and discussing employee responses to change and ways to reduce resistance. Additionally, the author provides clarity on the leadership roles and responsibilities in change processes.
Increasingly, the issue of cybersecurity is one on the forefront of leaders minds. Sims devotes Chapter 13 to addressing the role of leadership with cybersecurity, and references the National Institute of Standards and Technology Framework as a foundation for the discussion. Emphasis is placed on the importance of preparedness as well as response to security breaches and cyberattacks. At the heart of this chapter is the leaders responsibility to honor the trust of internal and external stakeholders.
Particularly fitting is the fact that the final words of the book are on the topic of sustainability and the commensurate leadership roles and responsibilities. The author goes beyond what sustainable development and leadership are and expounds upon why sustainable leadership is important to humans, organizations, and our earthly environment. The topic is addressed from the wider global lens at the beginning of the chapter, with the focus narrowing more to the responsibilities of organizations and leaders in sustainability. The author brings to bear the importance of ethical leadership, vision and strategic planning, and human resource management in fostering sustainability.
With all of the resources available in print or via the internet, it remains challenging to find a well-researched book that addresses major leadership topics so thoroughly and in a user-friendly format. Leadership, Leaders, and Leading is one of those texts a leader will be able to take off the shelf continuously and feel as if they are receiving solid advice from a sage mentor.
Sims, R. R. (2021). Leadership, leaders, and leading. Information Age Publishing.
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