This book put a smile on my face in a way that so many other leadership books just don't. John Zenger and Joseph Folkman, along with Scott Edinger, have managed to write a book that contributes valuable insights to the ever-expanding literature on leadership analysis and development, while steering clear of the managerial platitudes that typically hamper books on leadership. How does a leader become inspired? How does a leader inspire others? What steps can a leader take in order to strengthen their ability to lead effectively?

In The Inspiring Leader, Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger explore these questions while also providing compelling research data and practical ideas that the reader can use to improve his own leadership skills. The authors' easy-to-read writing style, their sharing of pertinent experiences, and the quotes that are strategically placed throughout the book all mesh together to create a delightfully informative read.

Interested in learning more about inspiration? In the book, the authors admit that in the past they had avoided the topic of inspiration because the concept is often too difficult to measure and define. But this time around, the authors use data from research that they conducted while writing their previous book, The Extraordinary Leader.

While the authors previously examined the multitude of characteristics that effective leaders possess, The Inspiring Leader targets the one ability that almost all high-performing leaders share with one another: the ability to inspire and motivate. By focusing on this one ability, the authors were able to provide readers with specific actions that they can take to be better leaders.

Part 1 focuses on why inspiration is so important when it comes to leadership. The authors back up their claims by comparing attributes of successful leaders with the success or failure of the organizations that they work for. The authors' holistic approach to analyzing the research was evident in that they reviewed not only responses from leaders and managers, but also responses from their subordinates and external stakeholders. While Chapters 2 and 4 contain insight based on empirical data, I think that the authors' use of statistics terminology may be a bit excessive and could prove to be unappealing to some readers. Chapter 3 gives a wonderful overview of some of the advantageous behaviors that an inspirational leader can elicit from his or her subordinates.


Part 2 reads like a practical self-help book. Chapters aptly titled "Creating Vision and Direction" and "Fostering Innovation" give leaders and aspiring leaders alike a developmental roadmap that they can use to become more inspirational. While enough material exists to devote a book's-worth of information to each chapter, Zenger, Folkman, and Edinger do a fantastic job of summarizing the important points and wrapping up each chapter with a worthwhile conclusion.

I found that one of the most powerful revelations that the authors put forward is that if you want to become more inspirational, you have to become more comfortable with emotions, feelings, and moods. Too often, leaders overlook the "soft" side of business, and their subordinates, departments, and organizations suffer because of it.

The best thing about this book is that the authors provide some direction and then allow the reader to chart his own developmental course. The authors' credentials and experiences, along with their extensive research provide them with the credibility and knowledge to be able to write an effective book on such an intangible topic.

The Inspiring Leader contains subtle undertones of positive psychology, participative management, and organizational strategy in addition to its main theme of practical leadership. As more leaders in today's business environment focus on generating results, this book explains how and why leaders should inspire others to help them achieve those results. I give it three and a half cups.