Book Review: Mastering Leadership is Masterful …

Holy Grail - Arthur Rackham - WikipediaIndiana Jones sought the Holy Grail and other archeological treasures …

Harry Potter searched high and low for horcruxes to fight a great evil …

Frodo endured deprivation, danger, and evil magic to end another great evil

Luke Skywalker underwent the Hero’s Journey as he discovered his past and his future …

As in our imaginary worlds, so it is in the real world.  Everyone seems to be searching for something … something big, something that will change our world.  

While not  as exciting as the above, many in the leadership world have long sought one model that will give us the intellectual structure to really understand and enhance our leadership.  Many have tried and in the process given us valuable insights, useful concepts, and down-to-earth advice on how leadership works and how to make it work better.

Book CoverMastering Leadership:  An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results is a mouthful, but this title delivers what it promises.  

Robert Anderson and William Adams may have just done what some of us thought impossible:  create a unified theory of leadership which ties it all together.


1)  Mastering Leadership builds on a solid and valid foundation of human development theory, which I learned in graduate school many years ago, use regularly in my work, but never thought to apply specifically to the area of leadership development.

2)  The authors acknowledge and use an understanding of what they call the Inner Game (Inner Operating System) and the Outer Game.   We are not just what we display to the world and to those we interact with.  We are also a complex combination of values, beliefs, experiences,  assumptions, and so on.

While these concepts are not new, their use incorporated with the author’s understanding of human development is new to me.  This approach evokes emotional intelligence and mindfulness, but applied in a much more comprehensive way.

3)  The authors use the core concept of Identity in this fairly complex, but clearly explained model which incorporates both Creative and Reactive styles of leadership behavior, while also including the familiar dichotomy of Task orientation versus Relationship orientation.

In their world, which is where I want to live and work, Task and Relationship are not opposites, but co-existing and essential leadership orientations.


The ideal leader is proficient at both Task and Relationship, while increasing their creative behaviors and reducing their reactive behaviors.

The ideal leader seeks and achieves growth through five leadership stages (Egocentric, Reactive, Creative, Integral, and Unitive).  Much as Maslow’s hierarchy addresses human motivation, the model leads us from lower to higher forms of leadership.  

Without going into detail here, this book is not just about becoming a more effective leader, but becoming a more effective force in our world.


THe Leadership Circle:  A graphic representation of Creative and Reactive styles, along with Task and Relationship.   This picture includes a wealth of specific behaviors and attributes which can increase or hinder our leadership development and the book dissects it in fine order.

The Leadership Circle Profile:  This tool gives us a visual assessment of our Creative and our Reactive behaviors, along with how we “tilt” toward Task or Relationship.   It is most effective when the profile includes the perceptions of others about your leadership.

All of this uses recognized theories around moral, psychological, and intellectual development.  I could just say they had me at “Kohlberg” …

Once we see this graphic depiction of where we are, our future goals are more easily identified as we plan to increase Creative, reduce Reactive, and balance Task and Relationship.

The book covers a fairly complex and deep theoretical model, but it does so articulately and with plenty of examples from real life.   It is wonky enough to satisfy the statistical nerds among us, but available enough for those who just want to learn and grow.  When you finish digesting the various charts, graphs, and images, you move into deep reflection about yourself and the role of leadership in your life.

Many familiar names and terms pop up in both the text and the index, which is one of the things I look for in a book that purports to be useful to me. Filled with solid research-based knowledge, it covers a broader scope than most other leadership development books I have read.

Mastering Leadership is not “easy” reading, but it IS very engaging reading for anyone serious about expanding their knowledge of how we can help ourselves and others.  It does not offer simple solutions or reheated and empty slogans, but a model and a tool to help us become much more intentional about developing our leadership abilities effectively.

Mastering Leadership goes on my Fingertip Shelf, where I keep those few titles I truly want to remember, learn, and use into my future.    I imagine many others will want to take similar advantage of the book as well.

Much more than I have mentioned here awaits you in this excellent contribution to the leadership development field.  Dare I remind you that Christmas is coming and this would make a powerful gift for yourself or someone else.

Loving this addition to my learning in the Heartland ….


Image: How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad: illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1917 from Wikipedia

Caveat:  I received an advance copy of Mastering Leadership … and feel myself to be quite fortunate in that regard.  I would have liked this book even if I paid top dollar for it.