This blog post is my critique of the book “Leadership Is” by Harrison Owen (1990) from the standpoint of individual, group and enterprise leadership insights. Please note I’m reviewing the first edition.
Each critique reviews the key message of the book, the high-level concepts, the book’s areas of strengths, and where it falls short. I conclude each critique with an overall assessment ranking (1-10 ascending) of its effectiveness in providing the reader applicable lessons in personal and/or leadership development.
Overview: “Leadership Is” immediately caught my attention from the bold title. It was given to me as a gift from a member of the International OD Association, of which I am currently on the board. Owen opens the book with the notion that leadership is dead, only to reinvigorate its readers of the opposite, that leaders live in each of us if we are only to allow it in to manifest – through spirit.
Key Message: The key message of this book is that we have to pay attention to the world around us and our reaction to it. Leadership is liberation – being out of control and loving it. He claims that raising spirit is the also the final task of leadership.
High-level concepts: Owen differentiates management (to control) versus leadership (to liberate). He examines the phases of lifecycle that leadership occurs, including death.
Areas of Strengths: If you spend the required time, you will find this book to be profound. I think Owen’s competitive differentiator is his authentic writing style. Without ever have meeting him, I can imagine him scribbling on pen and paper his first draft. There is something attractive about raw streams of consciousness.
Supplemental Materials: Harrison Owen is most famous for his work on Open Space: https://openspaceworld.org/wp2/hho/about-harrison-owen/
Where it Falls Short: While some may find raw stream of consciousness intriguing, many won’t. His chapters are loose, don’t flow, and don’t connect to the subsequent chapters. There doesn’t appear to be an overarching approach to his messages.
Overall Assessment & Why: I rate it a 6 out of 10. I would like to be so bold to put a book out there titled Leadership Is. If I were to do that, however, I would spend more time finessing my theory, methodology and message. This had nuggets of gold (leadership is the ability to focus spirit), but you need to read through it several times to pick out thought-provoking work.