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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 27, Issue 5
J. Timothy McMahon, Waveland Press, Long Grove, IL, 2010, ISBN: 9781577666387, US$ 44.95, 586 pp.
One of the most valuable tools to an aspiring or practicing academic, or a working manager, is a collection of key readings on the study and application of leadership. Over the past few decades, several such compendiums have been published and everyone reading this review has benefited from possessing a copy, and very likely has several collections of leadership readings on their office bookshelves.
J. Timothy McMahon’s Leadership Classics is a recent compilation of 50 selected leadership articles that deserves a spot on the bookshelf of serious scholars of the study of leadership. Working managers will also benefit from having a copy of this volume within reach. Although the title specifies “classics” the volume has sprinkled throughout more recent treatises of the various leadership topics. A more appropriate title might have been Leadership: Classic and Contemporary Readings. A quick search of any academic database will reveal thousands of articles, studies, and dissertations about leaders and leadership and anyone reading this volume may question why certain works were not included (e.g. Avolio’s authenticity in leadership, and positive organizational scholarship from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business). However, choices must be made and McMahon has done commendable work in identifying the most impactful works to include in this book.
McMahon presents 50 key writings from the rock stars of leadership study: Locke, Bass, Stogdill, Mintzberg, McGregor, and others far too numerous to mention here, but with equally valuable contributions. The articles are compiled into six categories: process and roles, traits, behaviors, situational, power and influence, and enhancing effectiveness.
At first glance, this categorization represents the typical progression of leadership study over the past 110 years. However, the articles in each section have been carefully selected to maximize the categorical message. The crowning achievement of this volume is the sixth section: enhancing leader effectiveness. While the other sections contain a healthy mix of seminal and more current comment, this final section is a collection of the top thinking and writing in recent history and includes reflections from the minds of Bossidy and Charan, Buckinham, Bennis, George, and Covey, among others. This section alone is worth having Leadership Classics on the shelf.
A useful preface is followed by a chronology of the originators of selected concepts of leadership. The chronology is especially useful as a review tool for academics who occasionally teach a section of leadership, or a chapter on leadership in another course. Each of the six sections is also prefaced, briefly. Each section concludes with a list of study questions and classroom or seminar activities. Although this reviewer typically finds these types of inclusions to be less than useful, McMahon has compiled compelling discussion questions and meaningful and workable activities easily adapted for classroom use. The only real shortcoming of this work is its lack of an index. However, the volume has a comprehensive, yet clear, table of contents that was useful to this reviewer in navigating the book.
Does leadership matter? Avolio and colleagues (Avolio, Mhatre, Norman and Lester, 2009; Avolio, Reichard, Hannah, Walumbwa and Chan, 2009; Reichard and Avolio, 2005) have undergone exhaustive research to answer this very question. The book Leadership Classics is filled with rich seminal and current research and thought on the discipline of leadership and its value to the development and sustainability of contemporary workers and organizations. After reading this book it will be clear to the reader that leadership, indeed, matters.
Reviewed by Larry W. Hughes, Assistant Professor of Business, Nebraska Wesleyan University.
This review was originally published in Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Volume 31, Issue 7, 2010, pp. 664-5.
Avolio, B.J., Mhatre, K.H., Norman, S.M. and Lester, P. (2009), “The moderating effect of gender on leadership intervention impact: an exploratory review”, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 325–41
Avolio, B.J., Reichard, R.J., Hannah, S., Walumbwa, F.O. and Chan, A. (2009), “A meta-analytic review of leadership impact research: experimental and quasi-experimental studies”, The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 20, pp. 764–84
Reichard, R.J. and Avolio, B.J. (2005), “Where are we? The status of leadership intervention research: a meta-analytic summary”, in Gardner, W.L. and Avolio, B.J. (Eds), Authentic Leadership and Practice: Origins, Effects, and Development, Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 203–23