This 80-page book was Charles Edmunson's final gift to the employee ownership community. Started when he was well into the debilitating illness that would take his life, Paradoxes of Leadership is a distillation of the wisdom, insight, and passion Charles brought to management and the employee ownership community at large. In it, Charles discusses 14 paradoxes that define his philosophy of leadership. For instance, the first paradox is that "we have more influence when we listen than when we tell." By listening, we gain respect from those with whom we interact, allowing us to be listened to when we most need it. We also have the chance to learn to make us better informed leaders in the future.
The book is a true labor of love. Unable to write, and, increasingly, finding it difficult even to talk, Charles dedicated himself to dictating his thoughts to Loren Rodgers, who made weekly trips to Framingham, MA, to listen to Charles. These extensive notes were then written up by Corey Rosen of the National Center for Employee Ownership, which also laid out the book and had it printed, to form the final product.
Paradoxes of Leadership has earned well-deserved and widespread praise. Whether being used as a text at Boston College, as a guide for employee owners, or an inspiration for anyone interested in Charles' life, it is an inspiring book. The final paradox of the book is that "a full life is achieved not by grasping but by giving." This act of giving by Charles can help make all our lives fuller.
The current printing of Paradoxes of Leadership incorporates many minor edits and corrections made by Janet Edmunson, the author's widow.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Preface by Stephen Sheppard
Paradox 1: We Have More Influence When We Listen Than When We Tell
Paradox 2: Profound Change Comes from a Feeling of Safety, Not from Fear
Paradox 3: We Are Stronger When We Are Vulnerable
Paradox 4: Even When We Are Effective, We Doubt Ourselves
Paradox 5: Our Strength Is Our Weakness
Paradox 6: Less Is More
Paradox 7: Our Strength Comes Through Serving, Not Through Dominating
Paradox 8: We Correct Better Through Grace Than Through Confrontation
Paradox 9: We Gain Respect Not by Demanding It, but by Giving It
Paradox 10: We Learn by Talking, Not Just by Listening
Paradox 11: With People, The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is Not a Straight Line
Paradox 12: The Hard Stuff Is the Soft Stuff
Paradox 13: Sometimes We Have to Get It Wrong to Get It Right
The Final Paradox: A Full Life Is Achieved Not by Grasping but by Giving
From "Paradox 1: We Have More Influence When We Listen Than When We Tell"
If a manager's job is to give direction to a group of people, then the most obvious way for a manager to do his job is to tell people what to do. That minimizes ambiguity and maximizes the chances that everyone will coordinate. Everyone depends on the manager to provide direction.
But this approach is also extravagantly wasteful, and leaders who breed dependence are not effective. If people always look to a manager for direction, then they are not very likely to turn around and suggest the new ways of looking at or doing things that can really move the company forward.
There are several ways you can breed dependence. If you second-guess people, people will stop venturing their ideas. If you assert your opinions more strongly than anyone else, people will be intimidated from sharing what they think. If you ask people what they think, but only because you know that "participative managers" are supposed to do that, people will say things only to make you happy. If you insist on approving every decision, people will stop making suggestions.
Effective leaders, by contrast, really listen. They know that listening to employees provides direction more effectively than telling employees what to do. Without someone to listen, employees have no reason to develop their ideas. And if employees are not actively thinking about the company, they are already half-engaged. Leaders can engage people to the point where the company becomes an idea factory, where people want to share their knowledge because they know it will be considered and, when it makes sense, used.