The Book Corner - Review

Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls by Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis

Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls

By Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis
Penguin Group, 2007

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialJudgment is the collaboration of Noel M. Tichy, PhD, (University of Michigan) and Warren G. Bennis, PhD, (University of Southern California). The goal of the book, in their own words, is to “demystify the leadership process, to explore and understand why it is that some leaders have much greater success in exercising good judgment than others.”

Judgment is effective at three levels. First, it is a teaching book, rich in leadership philosophy. It also offers new insights on judgment calls, what the authors label “the essential genome for effective leadership.” Second, through extensive case studies and personal interviews with key decision-makers including Jeff Immelt of GE, Jim McNerney of Boeing, and Brad Anderson of Best Buy we are taken into the minds of the judgment callers who shaped the success, and sometimes the demise, of their organizations. Lastly, the authors provide tangible frameworks for understanding and implementing the judgment process supported by a comprehensive Handbook for Leadership Judgment.

Tichy and Bennis offer a three-phase process for making good judgment calls: rigorous preparation; making the “call”; and ultimately, executing or “making it happen.” The overarching lesson in Judgment is that great leaders must also be great teachers who constantly develop the “pipeline” of future leaders. The authors highlight GE’s successful leadership center at Crotonville, New York, as a shining example of continuous corporate education. In essence, leaders must master three domains of judgment: people (hiring and firing executives and staff), strategy (driving change), and crisis (managing chaos and critical problems).

Judgment is essential reading for the future manager as well as for the seasoned executive. The most enduring lesson Tichy and Bennis offer is actually a challenge to all managers to fully understand that great calls are rooted not simply in how the leader works, but who the leader is. Their “Teachable Point of View” requires leaders to develop their own story and moral compass and to pass it on to those who follow.

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