Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition

By Dennis N.T. Perkins, et al.

Amacom, 2000, $39.95

I was in my early 20s when I first read Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing’s fine account of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and it remains my favourite leadership book. So when I heard about Leading at the Edge, I was interested but skeptical. I was prepared to advise readers to read instead Lansing’s book.

I was pleasantly surprised. Perkins’s book is sort of a leadership study guide, using incidents from Shackleton’s expedition. For example, the chapter on mastering conflict discusses the importance of engaging dissidents and points to expedition photographer Frank Hurley, who was something of a troublemaker when not included in decisions. So Shackleton made Hurley a member of his inner circle – even though he didn’t value Hurley’s advice as much as that of some of the others.

If applying a polar expedition to your own situation seems too much of a stretch, the book also includes four case studies of companies that have dealt with their own “edge” situations. – Abbie Lundberg

Change on the Run: Competing Through e-Leadership

By Michael Kay

John Wiley & Sons, 2000, $41.95

In his book, Change on the Run, author Michael Kay details his vision of businesses which operate with an “offensive change strategy”. That is, an approach to business which sees companies as competitive weapons which proactively seek to create turbulence to unbalance their competitors.

Kay is a senior member of PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Strategic Change Practice in Toronto. He identifies six key leadership skills that will deliver the desired results: lead transformational change without halting existing business; ensure profits stay resilient during these changes; align staff with organizational goals; involve all members of the company in improving the business; empower change agents to implement critical initiatives; and build a core leadership team that will move this vision throughout the organization. – CIO Canada staff

Learning in Action: A Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work

By David A. Garvin

Harvard Business School Press, 2000, $47.95

Creating a learning organization sounds good in theory. Try to find an executive who wouldn’t like more collaborative, innovative and knowledgeable workers, and a backbone of clearly defined, cost-cutting best practices. But putting the learning organization theory into practice is difficult – especially when it comes to leading this type of sweeping enterprisewide change. So how does one even begin creating the learning organization?

In his new book, Learning in Action, Harvard Business School professor David A. Garvin examines the challenges facing executives as they move toward creating and sustaining the learning organization, and offers real-world techniques and tools to help managers implement these new processes. Though Garvin notes acceptance of the learning organization model has been high, progress toward achieving the end has been slow.

“Learning organizations have been embraced in theory but are still surprisingly rare,” he says. What to do? “If executives hope to build learning organizations, they too must become more open to divergent views, more aware of their personal biases and more comfortable with raw, unfiltered data,” Garvin says.

“Otherwise,” he explains, “they will never be able to lead others in learning.” – CIO Canada staff

The IT Consultant: A Commonsense Framework for Managing the Client Relationship

By Rick Freedman

Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000, $59.95

Does an IT executive’s technical competency guarantee that he or she can successfully deliver strategic IT services? No, argues Rick Freedman, IT trainer and consultant. The real make-or-break IT management skills, he says, are those related to human communication and interaction. This comprehensive and well-written text is for anyone who would like to acquire or brush up on IT management skills. – Carol Zarrow