Leading in Turbulent Times
By Kevin Kelly and Gary E. Hayes
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010
This book begins by exploring the “universal truth of change.” The authors attempt to support their assertion that it is extremely difficult to make sense of the world these days by citing contemporary examples of how well-known business organizations are contending with the obvious need to change. One example is Hertz. It is noted that the car rental company has never experienced a reduction in sales of more than 3.5 percent during any previous recession. However, in 2008 it suffered a 20 percent reduction. The response was to reduce its global workforce by 4,000 employees in order to manage its costs.
One of the messages of the book is that change is a universal fact of organizational life. The authors explore change as it pertains to the art auction business, as well as technology and globalization in general. They argue that change requires leadership, and that the “soft skills” make survival and success possible during turbulent times, as we are experiencing presently.
Some of the observations in the book seem a bit simplistic and verging on “clichés”— such as “there is a huge difference between managing and leading.” However, the discussion of the need of a leader to effectively interpret the signs of impending change within the marketplace and the undeniable need to communicate effectively with all members of the organization may be of some value to those who aspire to be perceived as not only a manager, but as a leader as well.
The authors also consider the skills necessary to communicate effectively during turbulent times and underscore the need to establish simple, clear goals. They contend that personal, authentic communication of the organization’s strategy by leaders must take place on a regular basis. In addition, the communication must utilize technology in a manner that facilitates participation.
Leadership is viewed in this book as striking a balance between thinking and acting. It requires the ability to determine whether action should be taken now or at a later date. The book concludes with a checklist for leading in turbulent times. Many of the leaders that the authors interviewed believe that their decisions relative to the course to be taken reflect a desire to make history rather than become history. I found the book to be short on new insights and somewhat trite in some aspects of leadership that it explored. To be very candid, in my view this book is not worth your time.