By Tim Radford Tuesday, 01 July 2003

BOOKS: A psychological contract

BOOKS: A psychological contract - Inspirational leaders should connect deeply with those whom they lead. That is the central idea of this book, which Tim Radford finds perceptive and practical.

Inspirational leaders should connect deeply with those whom they lead. That is the central idea of this book, which Tim Radford finds perceptive and practical.

The Inspirational Leader; By John Adair; Kogan Page pounds 12.99; MT Price pounds 9.99

A good leadership book should result in honest reflection. John Adair's latest work achieves just that. Adair, an authority on business leadership development, reiterates his best ideas on strategic leadership and introduces new thoughts into a concise, readable guide.

The Inspirational Leader features edited discussions with a young chief executive in search of a more effective leadership style. It doesn't deal with the procedures of man-management, nor does it offer 'magic bullets'; but it addresses the concerns of a man with a real desire to learn.

The first four chapters focus on the foundations of leadership theory. First, Adair examines the three basic approaches to leadership and the need to empower the led. Next, he outlines what he sees as the key characteristics of 'practical wisdom' and delivers a convincing analysis of the difference between leadership and management. Importantly, there is an explanation of the psychological contract between the leader and the led - which, from a military perspective, is considered crucial both on operations and in barracks.

To be a truly inspirational leader, Adair argues, one must understand the spirit within. He and his pupil discuss the otherworldly concept of spiritual energy and how this must be appreciated and shared in order to inspire the led. The Inspirational Leader commends the reader to leave the weeds in the world of micro-management and think big. In other words, to put the immediate task to one side and consider its place in the overall purpose. The great leader assesses and tackles this purpose in a universal context.

Adair also recognises that all people have the potential for greatness. Through trust, the inspirational leader will unlock this power in others. Appreciating the capabilities of others, he contends, leads to humility - a word that should be commensurate with great leadership but is often lost en route. This acknowledgment is linked to what he terms 'the inspired moment': the recognition and seizure of a 'brief window of opportunity' that can act as a powerful catalyst for something that inspires both leader and led - a seminal experience to be striven for.

Recently, as the proponent for leadership in the Army, the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst has redefined leadership doctrine. Deep research was conducted outside the Armed Forces to ensure best practice. It has become evident that leadership is a personal journey but something of which all are capable.

In the Army, service, responsibility and the desire to add value are central to our philosophy of leadership. Inspirational leaders connect with the led. Making that connection is central to this book.

Successful military leadership is generally defined as the projection of personality, character, intellect and professional skill in order to inspire the led - no different, fundamentally, from leadership in any other institution.

For leadership is a combination of example, persuasion and compulsion that results in making people do things they might not otherwise have done. The real difference between those who lead and those who are led is the desire for responsibility. The rewards for success can be great; the penalties for failure, especially during conflict, are greater but must be shouldered by the true leader.

The Inspirational Leader has an appeal beyond the boardroom or the streets of Al Basrah. Some readers may tire of the constant reference to the young CEO but the book makes easy reading. Adair's classical and biblical references offer a timeless authority to his arguments. A positive, thought-provoking work that should encourage and inspire the reader to self-assess - an important step on the road to becoming a better leader.

Lt Col Tim Radford MBE has commanded extensively on operations in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and, lately, in Iraq. He is in charge of Leadership Development at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst

MT BOOKSHOP: All books reviewed by Management Today are available from the MT Bookshop. Call 08700 702 999 to order. Postage and packing at pounds 1.95 will be added to each order/

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