The Book Corner - Review

The Leadership Advantage by Robert M. Fulmer and Jared L. Bleak

The Leadership Advantage: How the Best Companies Are Developing Their Talent to Pave the Way for Future Success

By Robert M. Fulmer and Jared L. Bleak
AMACOM, 2007

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3 stars: Valuable information and a good readIn this new book, Fulmer and Bleak address the challenges that business organizations face as the result of increasing global marketplace competition and an ever-decreasing pool of qualified, competent employees. Their argument, supported by research, is that a business organization is most likely to survive if it has strong leadership development strategies.

The Leadership Advantage reviews the primary findings of a comprehensive study conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), the Center for Creative Leadership, and Duke Corporate Education, where Dr. Fulmer is academic director and Dr. Bleak is executive director. The study explored five highly regarded business organizations with respect to leadership development. Traditional data gathering and site visits were conducted at Caterpillar, Cisco Systems, PepsiCo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Washington Group International.

From the data, Fulmer and Bleak identify some intriguing examples of best practices in strategic leadership development. One of the tenets of the book is that leadership development should be viewed by business organizations as a “strategic force.” They discuss the future of “strategic human capital management” and assert that we will see a return to the teaching organization. In such an organization, learning is valued and leaders are actively engaged in teaching by example rather than merely issuing edicts.

Fulmer and Bleak conclude that successful organizations establish partnerships between senior executives and human resources (HR) that facilitate the identification of employees with significant potential. In addition, senior management and HR work together to design programs that ensure leadership development is consistent with the business organization’s business needs. The second part of the book provides the reader with five fascinating and substantive case studies, which I found to be effective in underscoring certain elements of the preceding conceptual discussion and presenting the practical applications of the study’s findings.

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