Book Review

Taking Advice: How Leaders Get Good Counsel and Use It Wisely

by Dan Ciampa, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Mass., 2006, 197 pp. with index, $26.95 hardcover

School leaders frequently receive advice, but do we know how to use it to the best benefit? Dan Ciampa uses his experience as a noted adviser to leaders and the former CEO of a leading consulting firm on change management to describe effective strategies for leaders to use to benefit the organization’s mission.

Ciampa uses Taking Advice to describe a “help paradox,” which he identifies as the availability of considerable advice in a frequently unhelpful or unusable framework. To address the paradox, Ciampa identifies the characteristics of an advice-providing system that is actionable, timely and sustainable for leaders.

This design requires the recipient to select the right advisers and create conditions to apply the advice with an action orientation. Essentially, good advice also must be advice that is accepted and applied by the leader.

Through a variety of case studies from private-sector settings, Ciampa successfully identifies the value of structuring advice-receiving situations in a way that will allow the educational leader to find meaning and value. Consequently, skillful school leaders can use this examination of the role of consultants to enrich their organizational change strategies.

Taking Advice adds a new perspective to the mentoring process. In the end, Ciampa says, “the best advice takers assume ownership of the process in the same way that they assume responsibility for the culture and ... performance of their organizations.”

Whether you’re an advice giver, an advice taker or both, you’ll benefit from Ciampa’s perceptive insights about this dimension of your leadership work.

Reviewed by Brian L. Benzel, vice president of finance and administration, Whitworth College, Spokane, Wash.