Book Review

Leader to Leader: Enduring Insights on Leadership from the Drucker Foundation’s Award-Winning Journal

Reviewed by Brian L. Benzel,
Chief Operating Officer, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, Wash.


Many educational leaders are expected to guide change processes but often are implored simultaneously to keep things like they’ve always been.

This leadership conundrum may seem unique to our educational enterprise, but Frances Hesselbein and Paul M. Cohen of The Drucker Foundation demonstrate otherwise in Leader to Leader. The book’s 37 leadership perspectives will stimulate and challenge anyone in educational leadership.

Hesselbein, former chief executive with the Girl Scouts of America, notes, "Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do." Educators will need to use cutting-edge leadership strategies described in this work to guide public schools into the networked world of our future.

One leader, Kevin Kelley, the executive editor of Wired magazine, serves a stark and threatening challenge. In his essay, he warns, "In the network economy, the price of poor adaptation is, increasingly, extinction." Harvard educator Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in chronicling the powerful role local communities will play in keeping America competitive, states, "Communities that neglect their social infrastructure, that fail to build a shared sense of their fate, that haven’t developed networks of organizations that can reach consensus, will be hard pressed to attract good jobs."

David and Mark Nadler, both consultants and commentators, describe the pitfalls that exist for successful organizations. In many ways, public schools represent the kind of success story that can experience what the Nadlers call the "Success Syndrome" (an enterprise whose sustained success carries the seeds of future disaster). They identify the characteristics of this syndrome: internal focus and insularity, codification, complexity, conservatism, and disabled learning and reduced innovation. But they also provide guidance on how organizations can avoid these pitfalls.

The Nadlers suggest applying a contrarian mindset, listening to front-line employees and building learning processes into the core values of the organization.

(Leader to Leader: Enduring Insights on Leadership from the Drucker Foundation’s Award-Winning Journal, edited by Frances Hesselbein and Paul M. Cohen, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, Calif. 1999, 397 pp. including index, $27 hardcover)