Book Review

Leading for Results

by Dennis Sparks, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2007, 207 pp., $32.95 softcover

Building on his 25-year record as executive director of the National Staff Development Council as well as the seminal work of Stephen Covey, Peter Senge, Daniel Goleman and others, Dennis Sparks has distilled his vision of leadership into this helpful guide.

The subtitle, Transforming Teaching, Learning and Relationships in Schools, captures Sparks’ focus on the profound effect that clarity of understanding, transformational learning and “next action” thinking can have on organizational performance. This is a personal look at leadership, not as much about what leaders should do (although a large number of “how to’s” are included), but more about how leaders should think and feel to actualize their potential and unleash individual and organizational energy.

To those already successful, Leading for Results could provide the extra edge to reach higher levels, based on Sparks’ insights about the nature and importance of sustaining genuine dialogue, moving from thought to action and designing powerful learning for all educators.

The book would have been even more helpful had Sparks prioritized his principles and woven them into a more integrated whole. Seeing his gestalt as he wades through 43 admonitions is difficult at times and may be overwhelming for novice leaders unable to identify what is essential for their context.

The book is a combination text and workbook, with spaces to reflect, examine assumptions and create one’s own meaning. It may be best used as the basis of a superintendent’s study group or for collaborative analysis by senior staff within a school district. This second edition includes 18 new chapters, a new section and a reordering of content from an earlier version.

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