Synopses & Reviews
Are you the type of leader who finds it difficult to make quick assessments of people or ideas? Do you fail to read all the things that come across your desk? Do you frequently find yourself wondering whether conventional wisdom is just a bit too simplistic for the realities of our day?
Good, says Steven Sample, president of the University of Southern California. You're already well on your way to becoming a contrarian leader -- one who sees situations from his own unique point of view and who finds genuinely new solutions to the challenges facing his organization.
Widely regarded as one of this generation's most effective and innovative university presidents, Sample presents in this book profound leadership lessons that combine a masterful survey of history with rich insights from personal experience.
As management guru Warren Bennis notes in the foreword, "There are few originals left in American society today - men and women who speak with a unique voice and who can offer an unconventional perspective and bracing authenticity. Steve Sample is an undisputed original. Simply put, his is a voice that should be heard by all those who would aspire to lead thoughtfully and effectively in our own time."
"It is a cracking good read that fairly zips along and makes you think differently about leadership.... A smashing inspirational read." (Personnel Today, 19 march 2002)
??enjoyable and friendly book?a valuable and welcome read. This is a 'good sense' book ?? (The Occupational Psychologist, December 2002)
"Real thought and leadership run everywhere in this distillation from Steve Sample's rich experience as a leader. He writes easily and well, but the points he makes run deep and help you reflect on your own experience. Read this book at your own risk: you just might learn
something startling." —George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State
"Every leader or anyone who hopes to be one should read what Steven Sample says about leadership. No one could possibly say it better than he has in The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership. This gem of focused wisdom is presented with such amazing originality, clarity, and artful eloquence that
it often holds the reader spellbound. It is sure to become the classic leadership text." —Simon Ramo, cofounder, TRW Inc.
"This is an intoxicating read, a bushwacker's delight. With swift, sure strokes, Steve Sample cuts down a lot of bad ideas about leadership and opens up a new path for the next generation to follow. No wonder he has turned around not one but two major universities." —David Gergen, noted commentator, bestselling author, and adviser to four United States Presidents
"The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership is a unique guide to effective management because it's written by someone who practices what he preaches. Steven Sample isn't someone who just writes about leadership; he leads. As a result, he offers us fascinating reading, illuminating a way that others may follow." —Michael Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer, the Walt Disney Company
"I loved this book attributing the huge recent gains at USC to a learnable, determined rationality that especially values correct decisions that are contrary to conventional wisdom." —Charles Munger, vice chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
"This splendid work, unlike other recent textbooks and cookbooks on leadership, explores the issues and values that are the essential foundation of leadership. Enlivened with practical examples and enriched by personal experience, this is a book off major stature and enduring significance." —Frank Rhodes, president emeritus, Cornell University
"In this era of hype and simplistic how-to lists, Steven Sample's refreshing book stands out for its depth and unusual personal insight. Lessons from great leaders of history blend with his experience as university president to illustrate the many roles leaders play, from artful listener to entertaining storyteller, as they struggle with circumstances en route to significant accomplishments. Reading this provocative book will help all leaders better understand themselves and their choices. —Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and bestselling author of Evolve: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow
"Steven Sample goes well beyond conventional wisdom about the art of leadership and brings a totally new dimension to the rich body of literature on the topic, dotting this lively narrative with pearls of wisdom and insight based on his wealth of experience. What emerges is a stimulating and provocative 21st century vision for how leadership can be taught, learned, and practiced." —Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive officer, Occidental Petroleum Corp.
"The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership is not only a helpful guide to effective leadership, it is a thoughtful guide to successful living. One main point that come through is that 'big time' leadership is only possible after answering tough and probing questions about one's own skills and values. In this, there are no failsafe equations for leadership. For a big time leader, character carries the day." —Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator
In this offbeat approach to leadership, college president Steven B. Sample-the man who turned the University of Southern California into one of the most respected and highly rated universities in the country-challenges many conventional teachings on the subject. Here, Sample outlines an iconoclastic style of leadership that flies in the face of current leadership thought, but a style that unquestionably works, nevertheless. Sample urges leaders and aspiring leaders to focus on some key counterintuitive truths. He offers his own down-to-earth, homespun, and often provocative advice on some complex and thoughtful issues. And he provides many practical, if controversial, tactics for successful leadership, suggesting, among other things, that leaders should sometimes compromise their principles, not read everything that comes across their desks, and always put off decisions.
This text challenges many of the conventional teachings about leadership and urges leaders to focus on some key counter intuitive truths. It offers advice on some very complex issues such as: leaders should always put off decisions, they should rarely read, and should compromise their principles.
In this provocative new book, Steven Sample, one of the nation's most highly regarded university presidents, explodes many romanticized views of leadership and demonstrates how leaders can free themselves from the shackles of conventional wisdom.
- Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
- Don't form opinions if you don't have to. Think gray.
- Shoot your own horse. Don't force others to do your dirty work.
- The best leaders don't keep up with the popular media and the trades.
- Machiavelli can help make you a more moral leader.
- Know what hill you are willing to die on-and keep its exact location to yourself.
- Know the all important difference between being leader and doing leader.
- You can't copy your way to the top.
"This is an intoxicating read, a bushwacker's delight. With swift, sure strokes, Steve Sample cuts down a lot of bad ideas about leadership and opens up a new path for the next generation to follow. No wonder he has turned around not one but two major universities."
--David Gergen, noted commentator, bestselling author, and adviser to four United States Presidents
About the Author
Steven B. Sample—an electrical engineer, musician, outdoorsman, professor, and inventor-is the tenth president of the University of Southern California. Under Sample's leadership USC has become a world-renowned in the fields of communication and multimedia technologies, has received national recognition for its innovative community partnerships, and has solidified its status as one of the nation's leading research universities. USC was selected as College of the Year 2000 by TIME and the Princeton Review, was named a "hot school" by Newsweek/Kaplan Review, and has been widely acclaimed in recent years for the excellence of its highly selective undergraduate programs.
Table of Contents
Foreword, Warren Bennis
About the Author.
1. Thinking Gray, and Free.
2. Artful Listening.
3. Experts: Saviors and Charlatans.
4. You Are What You Read.
5. Decisions, Decisions.
6. Give the Devil His Due.
7. Know Which Hill You're Willing to Die On.
8. Work for Those Who Work for You.
9. Follow the Leader.
10. Being President Versus Doing President.
11. The University of Southern California: A Case Study in Contrarian Leadership.