Book Review

Being the Boss

The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader

by Linda A. Hill and Kent Lineback, Harvard Business Press, Boston, Mass., 2011, 273 pp., $25.95 softcover


Harkening to an earlier time when management was a broader term that included leadership, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback target their book Being the Boss to “individuals in their early and midcareers who realize that they need to become more effective managers.”



Their recipe is threefold. Imperative No. 1, “manage yourself,” deals with how bosses perceive themselves, the many conflicting roles they must assume and how successful bosses influence others. Next is “manage your network,” addressing the need to work effectively in political environments without becoming enmeshed in or controlled by them. The third component, “manage your team,” is about building high-performing teams that contribute more to the organization than the sum of the individuals involved.

A consistent theme is the critical role of self-assessment in leadership development, and readers are encouraged to examine themselves through a series of probing questions that follow each section.

The text draws on the work of long-time leadership gurus, including Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, John Kotter and Ron Heifetz. In many cases, the authors relay generalizations, unattributed to any specific research source.

Hill is a Harvard Business School professor and chair of the school’s Leadership Initiative, while Lineback spent 30 years as a business and government executive.

I had hoped for more new insights in Being the Boss. I kept thinking, Haven’t I read this before? As such, this book might be suited to fledging principals who are not living up to their full potential. Otherwise, you would probably be much better served by going to the original sources rather than to this distillation.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Thomas, associate director, Center for Leadership in Education, Towson University, Baltimore, Md.