REVIEWS


Praise for So you want to be a leader

Yassmin Abdel-Magied: Founder, Youth without Borders; Queensland Young Australian of the Year 2015 (15Feb15)

Leadership is often talked about in abstract or non-narrative ways. So you want to be a leader brings it home to us through the stories of people in our community and shows us that leadership comes in many forms, perhaps in as many as books written about it! Jokes aside, these stories of leadership are a great path to understanding how a leader can achieve success in a wide variety of situations.

Akram Azimi: mentor to indigenous and disadvantaged youth; Young Australian of the Year 2013 (3Feb15)

Against the bleak backdrop of today’s public discourse, So you want to be a leader comes as welcome relief. Composed as a series of contemplative reflections, from a diverse group of Australians, it deals with the often messy yet rewarding work of leading social change. And because leading is uniquely both a highly personal experience and a very public endeavour, each author attempts to highlight the tensions, difficulties and possibilities inherent in this micro-macro/self-society duality. Refreshingly, no one proffers dogmatic policy destinations; instead, each offers something more humble and infinitely more precious: a map of their experiences, mistakes made and lessons learned. Thus, in the best Aristotelian tradition, it is a book of phronesis – or practical reason – on how we might find our way out of the dreary desert that is our current public debate. As such, this book is an invaluable guide and source of deep nourishment for young leaders ‘before’, as Philip Crisp puts it, ‘they become too busy or battled scared’. Ultimately, it holds a promise – a great promise – of who we could be if led by our better angels; and how you, dear reader, might help us get there. And soon.

Pat Barrett AO: senior research fellow ANU; Commonwealth Auditor-General 1995-2005 (9Feb15)

It is difficult to remember a time when public leadership was of such critical importance, nationally and internationally. Philip is to be congratulated on this timely initiative and on encouraging the contributions that have been made. The experiences of these recognised leaders carry more weight than any textbook or lecture, and this should ensure the success of this book. Leadership is basically about people and performance and the necessary accountabilities for the outcomes that are achieved and the manner in which they are achieved.

Rev. Frank Brennan SJ AO: human rights lawyer and advocate (6Feb15)

Australia is at a crossroads. The days of easy economic growth are over. The major political parties have lost their distinguishing philosophical edge. The electorate is volatile and understandably untrusting. Churches have rapidly been losing credibility and relevance. Universities are run like businesses. Young people seeking inspiration look to humanitarian NGOs, prophetic individuals who exude passion and integrity, and those working strategically on the fringes of institutions. Those wanting to be leaders of our key institutions will find in this collection of reflections the stories and critiques of those who speak from long, hard experience as well as those who envisage a bold new vision for a free and confident nation making its contribution in a troubled but scintillating world. These are grounded accounts of refreshing hope which will inspire the next generation of Australia’s leaders.

Kate Carnell: CEO, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Chief Minister of the ACT 1995-2000 (26Mar15)

Every person has within them the seedling of leadership. For that seedling to bloom, however, requires careful nurturing, ample sustenance and an abundance of sunlight. This fine collection of essays, So you want to be a leader, offers some of the sunlight needed to help a new generation of leaders spring from the earth and grow into tall trees. The collection offers aspiring leaders the wisdom of those who came before: it explains how they can bring with them those they lead, encourages them to expose themselves to a breadth of experiences and challenges them to avoid easy assumptions. We will all be the richer for the grand oak trees it produces.

Andrew Catsaras: strategic marketing consultant and independent political analyst (2Feb15)

Experience is a brilliant teacher and So you want to be a leader is a very fine collection of 36 essays from distinguished Australians generously offering us the benefit of their wide experience. There is much to learn from this treasure trove of wisdom. I highly recommend it for all aspiring leaders.

Ian Frazer AC: immunologist; Australian of the Year 2006; Australian Living Treasure 2012 (1Mar15)

No one leadership style suits all situations. Effective leaders nevertheless learn their leadership skills from others – they can learn equally from good and bad examples of leadership, but the truly effective leaders learn most from the people they lead. The skills needed to be a good leader can largely be learnt, and one of the most important is the skill to talk effectively with, and to listen selectively to, those you are required to lead. This book should give aspiring leaders the opportunity to see how others have learnt to ‘listen selectively’.

Jack Heath: ACT Young Australian of the Year 2009; award-winning author of the Scream series (13Feb15)

Willingness to lead is more than just reluctance to follow. So you want to be a leader is full of unique insights from the young leaders of the 20th Century and their advice for the young leaders of the 21st. It’s essential reading for anyone headed for public life – which, in this privacy-exsanguinated world, is all of us. There’s no other book quite like it.

Anne Henderson AM: political historian; editor of The Sydney Papers (7Jan15)

Philip Crisp’s So you want to be a leader is a most timely and comprehensive analysis of leadership and the making of good leaders – an issue that bedevils our age of individualism and doubt. The breadth of experience in the contributors alone makes it compulsory reading.

The Hon. Sussan Ley MP: Minister for Health (Cth) (12Feb15)

There is no single, defining quality that makes an effective leader, but a characteristic that every good leader shares is a propensity to learn from others and absorb their lessons. A willingness to value knowledge and experience above self-fulfilment and personal ambition is essential for a successful leadership journey.

Philip Crisp’s So you want to be a leader is a valuable tool for any aspiring leader who has a thirst for discovery and a preparedness to refine leadership skills by drawing on the wisdom of their peers.

Simon McKeon AO: businessman and philanthropist; Chairman CSIRO; Australian of the Year 2011 (20Jan15)

Whilst there appears to be no shortage of people aspiring to be leaders, we never appear to have enough who are generally considered to be ‘good’. Philip Crisp has done us all an enormous favour by assembling not only a first class and diverse group of leaders, but ones who are willing to be frank, confronting and not merely offering the usual ‘leadership’ platitudes. None of us are too young (or ‘green’) let alone too old (or ‘past it’!) to take up the calling of leadership. All that is required is the right motivation and a desire to keep learning, especially through the experiences of others.

Colin Neave AM: Commonwealth Ombudsman (25Jan15)

I will have been in the work force for 56 years (part and full time!) in 2015 and thought I had seen it all. This group of essays has, as I look to the last couple of years in full time work, provided me with fresh ideas, refined my approach to vision development and revitalized me in a way which I did not expect when I started reading through what I believe to be an excellent and engaging book.

The Hon. Brendan Nelson: Director, Australian War Memorial; federal Leader of the Opposition 2007-08 (16Jan15)

Leadership cannot be taught, but it can be learned. Messages for new Leaders adds substantially to the most important aspect of learning leadership – reflection on the story of others.

This book is a journey of discovery for young readers and aspiring leaders. We don’t realise we are learning leadership when we are, but the power is in the story. These stories of leadership are informed by personal qualities, character and experience.

But at its heart is vision which more than anything else differentiates leadership from management. We can all be better and we can all choose to be leaders – striving to be so enriches all of us, as will these essays.

Kerryn Phelps AM: writer on health issues, especially integrative medicine; President, Australian Medical Association 2000-03 (10Jan15)

There is no magic formula for successful leadership. It is true that some people are born leaders while others acquire leadership skills along the way, but every aspiring leader needs to learn from the experience, successes, mistakes and wisdom of others. These are the life lessons you will find in this book.

Penny Sackett: astronomer and science educator; Chief Scientist of Australia 2008-11 (30Jan15)

Some of us choose a public life of leadership. Others are taken by surprise by an opportunity to lead. However it arrives, the challenge of leadership involves poking one’s head above the parapet, becoming publicly visible in some way, and thus opening oneself to external criticism and internal self-doubt. In the maelstrom of a public life that can be dogged by short-termism and a culture of tribal opposition, this inspirational and wise collection of essays will help leaders remain centred, reflective and nimble.

Rev. The Hon. Michael Tate AO: Parliamentary Standards Commissioner (Tas.); Minister for Justice 1987-93 (Cth) (3Mar15)

This is largely a collection of autobiographical reflections with an accumulation of practical wisdom which can inspire a new generation of leaders. Every young person who dips in and out of these essays will find that one quote or line which can stimulate a successful commitment to follow a certain course.

In egalitarian Australia, the opportunity is there. It requires a compelling idea, a refusal to hand over all responsibility to others, and (this is my favourite quote from the book) ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, attributed to Mahatma Ghandi.

Philip Crisp is to be congratulated on reviving my hope that a global citizen who happens to be Australian can rise to the challenge of providing leadership in a thousand different ways for the good of humanity everywhere.

Laurie Wilson: freelance journalist and consultant; President, National Press Club of Australia 2010-present (9Feb15)

Young or old, experienced or otherwise in public life, Philip Crisp’s book is a ‘must read’ for any aspiring leader. It provides a treasure trove of invaluable insights into effective leadership. In fact, at a time of increasing disenchantment with Australia’s political elite, some of our own so-called ‘leaders’ could do worse than pick up a copy. Open the book at any chapter and you’ll find something worthwhile.

Senator Penny Wong: Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (23Feb15)

This book reminds us that public life remains a noble calling, and of the difference that leadership can make.