One of the best ways to get people to understand how to be a successful leader is to show them real-life situations that tested the leadership qualities of those in charge, according to Management Professor Michael Useem. That is the theme of Useem's recent book, The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All. Useem, director of the Wharton School's Center for Leadership and Change, signed copies of the book at the Penn Bookstore on Tuesday. The book, published by Random House last month, consists of Useem's accounts of life-altering events involving people like Arlene Blum, a world-class mountain climber who led the 1978 Women's Himalayan Expedition, and University Board of Trustees Chairperson Roy Vagelos, who as head of drugmaker Merck & Co. made a controversial decision in 1987 by approving a treatment for the Third World disease river blindness. Useem cited these two people and their stories as being the "most remarkable and inspirational" for him. "Having taught in a variety of settings and working with various companies, I've realized people have a hard time turning the principles of leadership into their own terms without a powerful story to illustrate them," he said. All nine people profiled in The Leadership Moment come from different walks of life, ranging from a corporate executive to a former president of El Salvador. The author chose these subjects because they "best exemplify powerful experiences and enduring lessons." The experiences and lessons of these nine people have also been added to the back section of the book, "A Leader's Guide," a set of principles to leadership. The fact that their futures were at some point "at risk," he added, "gets people really drawn into the book. "People often come to terms with their own leadership when they look at people with leadership on the line," he said. Useem has written about eight other books including Investor Capitalism: How Money Managers are Changing the Face of Corporate America (1996) and Liberal Education and the Corporation (1987). Recently, the author has been making promotional appearances throughout the country. Useem has also brought some of the material from the book into his classes, like Management 100, among other undergraduate and graduate courses. Although he has not been using the book as a main text, professors elsewhere are picking up The Leadership Moment as an academic text, he said. The next step for Useem could be making a documentary of The Leadership Moment for public television. He is currently in the process of working with a producer. "Leadership is now critical, especially in a world where we're not sure how we're going to end up," Useem said. "[The book] is practical help to people who want to achieve something and who want to know how to work with people to get it done."Comments powered by Disqus
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