Monday, June 20, 2011

"Leadership - Enhancing the Lessons of Experience" by Hugues, Ginnett and Curphy

Joseph FLERON, owner of Dimension Consultance, is a top-level speaker, coach and consultant focusing on personal development, leadership, and team dynamics. Joseph recommended me this book, describing it as “rather academic, very serious but offering a really good synthesis on the theme of leadership”.

Indeed, this 700-page manual was created for an audience of university students. Nevertheless, I find it extremely useful for any leadership practitioner, because it offers a perspective on leadership that is wide, practical and rigorously scientific at the same time. 

A wide perspective on leadership

Hugues, Ginnett and Curphy define leadership as “the process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing its goals”. This process involves an interaction between:
  •   the leader,
  •   the followers and
  •   the situation.
The book addresses these three dimensions in very much detail. Here are some of the many subjects developed in this manual:
  • Leadership versus Management
  • The role of education and experience in leadership development
  • Assessing leadership
  • Influence tactics
  • Leadership and values
  • Leadership and personality traits
  • Leadership and intelligence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Follower motivation, satisfaction and performance
  • Effective teams
  • Contingency theories of leadership such as the Normative Decision Model, the Situational Leadership ® Model, the Contingency Model and the Path-Goal Model
  • Different approaches of change management: the rational approach and the theory of transformational and transactional leadership

Practical advice for leadership practitioners

The manual is packed with real-life leadership stories, covering various sectors such as big corporations, rural communities, SME’s, health care or the military. It is illustrated by many short, inspiring leader profiles.

It also provides recommendations about the following leadership skills:
  • Learning from experience
  • Communication and Listening
  • Assertiveness
  • Stress management
  • Building technical competence
  • Building effective relationships with superiors and with peers
  • Building credibility
  • Providing constructive feedback
  • Punishment
  • Delegating
  • Team building for work teams
  • Development planning
  • Coaching
  • Empowerment
  • Setting goals
  • Conducting meetings
  • Managing conflict
  • Negotiation
  • Problem solving
  • Improving creativity
  • Diagnosing performance problems
  • Team building at the top

Hum… it seems to me that I still have a lot of work before mastering just a tiny part of these skills. But reading this advice is a good start!

Scientific Validity

Hugues, Ginnett and Curphy’s views are based on a critical analysis of scientific research about leadership. There are 1.385 end-of-chapter notes, pointing to many more books than I will read in my entire life.

The authors deconstruct some myths about leadership. Each time they explain a leadership theory, they tell us whether it was validated on the ground or in the labs by independent scientific researchers. They show us the usefulness but also the limitations of many popular concepts and tools, such as emotional intelligence or the MBTI.
How Is This Book Useful to a Human Resource Practitioner?

We could use the lessons of Hugues, Ginnett and Curphy’s manual when exercising different HR roles:

  • As recruiters: to select the best leaders or leaders-to-be
  • As Human Capital Developers and Coaches: to help the leaders in our organization develop their skills
  • As Strategic Partners: to implement a leadership talent management system in line with the strategy of our organization
  • As Change Agents, because the book provides some good advice about change management
  • And perhaps even as Employee Advocates, when we need to explain to some leaders the do’s and don’ts of employee motivation.

Because of its focus on scientific validity, HR pros can also use this book to secure their decisions when they need to make a choice about the use of certain HR or leadership tools. For example: would it make sense to use the MBTI in the situation I am facing at the moment?

The book can also be a negotiation resource when you need to convince some partners (your colleagues, your board…) about the usefulness and validity of an HR project you would like to implement. An example might be if you need to convince your board that investing in assessment centers when recruiting leaders will have a positive impact on the bottom line.


  • Leadership. Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (sixth edition).
  • By Richard L. HUGUES, Robert C. GINNETT and Gordon J. CURPHY
  • Mc Graw-Hill International Edition
  • 704 pages
  • Available on


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