In Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss make the case that we should shift the focus of leadership development from addressing the shortcomings of leaders themselves to assessing and improving their impact on the members of their team. Effective leadership, in their estimation, is about empowering other people as a result of managers’ presence and influence and making sure that positive impact on rank-and-file personnel continues, even in leaders’ absence.
What sets this book apart in a sea of books on various leadership tactics lies in its actionable information and specificity. There are multiple case studies from real-world examples illustrating problems that leaders have faced and how components of the co-authors’ leadership framework played into the solution. Additionally, the authors delve a level deeper and deliver tactical guidance on topics within the arena of diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to recruit and retain talented female employees and ideas for creating spaces in the workplace where LGBTQ+ people feel a sense of belonging.
Frei and Morriss draw on their extensive experience working in and with early-stage tech start-ups, public sector agencies, and large companies such as Uber to lay out a leadership framework that maximizes such empowerment. The book is broken down into two overarching sections: exploring how employees can be empowered when leaders are actively engaged with them (“presence”) and analyzing how that impact can be maintained when the team is functioning without the leader around (“absence”).
In the presence section, Frei and Morriss emphasize the importance of the concepts of trust and belonging for leaders. Trust is developed in personnel by leaders leveraging a combination of empathy, logic, and authenticity. Additionally, setting high performance standards, demonstrating devotion to personnel, and championing differences among team members are methods that the authors argue can be leveraged to empower employees. When leaders aren’t present, the authors suggest that their influence can persist by ensuring that team members are aligned with the appropriate strategy and priorities and an innovative organizational culture of shared beliefs and values has been established.
The book cover’s image of a horse galloping forward is a powerful metaphor for the spirit and speed of a fully engaged and empowered workforce. By leveraging the tactics, following the lessons from the framework laid out in Unleashed, and staying true to its focus on external orientation, managers can improve their own overall performance as leaders and that of their organization.
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