TACOMA, Wash. – Jeffrey Matthews has taken an unusual approach in writing his new book Blacksheep Leadership (University Place Publishing House, February 2012).
He starts with a fictional story of three siblings competing for an inheritance. Then he spells out what defines today’s “Blacksheep leader” and lays out the path to achieve this new level of influence. And finally he relates two dramatic, real-life stories: one about Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton; the other about high school teacher Erin Gruwell—two leaders who instinctively took this unconventional path.
This mix of fiction and fact is not a gimmick. Matthews, director of University of Puget Sound’s Business Leadership Program and editor of The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell (The University Press of Kentucky, 2008), chose the format to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and to get across a powerful idea that has been simmering in academia for years and quietly edging into the business world, against some considerable resistance.
As Arches Editor Chuck Luce, who previewed the book, commented, “You start out by wanting to read it because it’s a darn good short story, and he’s got you by the neck before you get to the textbook part.”
Blacksheep Leadership is useful not only for those in business, but for parents, teachers, soccer captains, politicians, charity team leaders. It is for anyone who needs to lead and who wants to achieve exceptional, mutually-beneficial results. For academics and researchers, Blacksheep leadership is formally known as “transformational leadership.” Matthews, a scholar and authority in the field, writes:
“At the heart of the Blacksheep leadership process are genuine, caring, developmental relationships wherein followers and leaders consciously seek to improve each other’s abilities and performance.” In this relationship the leader taps into the follower’s desire to grow and to achieve. In short it is a shared sense that “we’re in this together.”
The contrasting, and today predominant, leadership style is “transactional leadership.” These leaders, too, may be genuine and caring, but the “deal” they have with their workers (or children) is that the follower will do what he or she is told, in exchange for a contingent reward, be it money, a smile, or use of the car. Failure to do the job satisfactorily may see this reward whipped away.
Good leadership of any sort, Matthews warns, is an immensely difficult undertaking. Blacksheep leadership, in addition, requires a complete rethinking of the system. So it is understandable that some leaders who find the “carrot and stick” approach works “just fine” resist the newer method.
However, the older system may not be as effective as it appears. Matthews cites research showing it often leads to an undesirable outcome by reducing creativity, problem solving, and capability, and by diminishing the motivation to undertake boring tasks.
Matthews also makes no bones about the fact that not many people are up to the effort Blacksheep leadership takes. But he allows no “easy out.” He vigorously knocks down the popular idea that good leaders are born good leaders. “The abilities of good and bad leaders are partly born, but mostly made,” he argues. Among the praise for Blacksheep Leadership, Matthew Kennedy, human resources business manager at Microsoft Corp., wrote:
“In Blacksheep Leadership, Matthews offers leaders, both aspiring and proven, tangible frameworks and excellent examples to embrace as they evolve from the transactional model of yesterday to the transformational approach needed today. Matthews has crafted a book that is both enjoyable and educational. A must read for leaders and managers at all levels.”
Matthews chose to self-publish the book through Lightning Source (one of several options) to reduce the time to market and keep the price low for buyers. Blacksheep Leadership is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookfinder, and other major booksellers’ websites. Part One of the book is currently available on Kindle, with a full version to come.
Press Photos of Jeff Matthews and the Blacksheep Leadership book cover can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos
Photos on page: Top right: Book cover; Above left: Jeffery Matthews; Above right: Sir Ernest Shackleton, 1916 poster for Lectures Pour Tous.
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