Book Review

The Accidental Leader

By Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley

Reviewed by Ernie Jean
Consultant, Missoula, Mont.

You may say to yourself, “I wasn’t suddenly thrust into a position of leadership,” so what’s the reason for this book? Co-authors Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley present a good blend of theory and practice in The Accidental Leader. They take a logical approach to theory by building it into several actions that can be taken tomorrow and would be important to the success of any new leader.

Having taught school leadership for many years, I found this book really refreshing, reminding me of a line from the popular television show West Wing: “We run in poetry and govern in prose.” That is to say, we delve into the theory of leadership in our studies, but we lead in a world that doesn't often conform to the neat patterns of theory. As one begins to lead an organization, one must not only confront the problems as they present themselves but must define one’s leadership style.

From the chapter titled “The First Day” to discussions of consistency and personal organization, this book takes a logical look at what happens as a newly named leader assumes office. This book has direct application to educational leadership, whether it comes about accidentally or at the end of a concentrated effort.

Robbins, who is a psychologist and business consultant, and Finley, a veteran author and journalist (they also wrote Why Teams Don't Work), have compiled the essentials of leadership theory and detailed several activities to apply the theory, which makes this a valuable resource for leaders.

(The Accidental Leader: What To Do When You’re Suddenly in Charge by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Calif., 2004, 188 pp. with index, $17.95 softcover)