A thoughtful, well-tempered pitch for inspired and inspiring leadership in hierarchical organizations. Leavitt, a professor...


CORPORATE PATHFINDERS: Building Vision and Values into Organizations

A thoughtful, well-tempered pitch for inspired and inspiring leadership in hierarchical organizations. Leavitt, a professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, offers a three-part model of the managerial process. It encompasses implementing (which mainly involves getting things done), problem solving (an essentially analytic function), and pathfinding (an elusive element that gives direction to an organization, addressing ends rather than means). High on the author's list of activist implementers are LBJ, Lee Iacocca, and General George Patton. He cites Harold Geneen and Robert McNamara as archetypal problem solvers. Gandhi, Lenin, DeGaulle, and Martin Luther King rank among history's notable pathfinders, with the corporate world laying claim to Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, Volvo's Pehr Gylenhammer, and Dana's Ren McPherson. In assessing the pros and cons of pathfinding, Leavitt observes that rugged forms of individualism are an integral part of the Western heritage, which may well prove advantageous in commercial competition with the Japanese, whose traditions emphasize conformity, obedience, and self-subordination. On the other hand, he warns that trying to run a company ""full of independent, rule-breaking pathfinders. . .is an invitation to anarchy."" Leavitt likewise cautions that charismatic leaders can exert more influence than may be salutary, unintentionally making their underlings or followers overly dependent. Commenting that organizational cultures are controlling as well as comforting, the author nonetheless concludes there is more to be gained than lost from the judicious introduction of path finding values; much of the text offers guidance on how to instill and sustain such qualities as vision and determination at all levels. Of real concern to Leavitt, though, is the ""high probability"" that, in their zeal for self-renewal along mission-oriented lines, some organizations will overreact, ""throwing out all the old furniture and replacing it with chrome and plastic."" An elegantly stated, mercifully undogmatic, and ultimately persuasive case for more enlightened stewardship.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1985


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dow Jones-Irwin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985