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Creating a Leadership Handbook: Part 2

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Mon Oct 26 2009

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Thanks for your comment to last week's post, Jenn. I appreciate your vote of confidence. We ended last week with a couple of questions: Who would you select to author a leadership handbook? What topics would you select for a leadership handbook? How would you ensure that a leadership handbook was useful?

Which Comes First the Authors or the Topics?

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Let's address the first two questions: who and what? How do you start a project of this magnitude? Do you select the authors first? Or the topics first? This is one of those chicken or the egg questions. My process is not an "or" but an "and." That is, I implement an entangled process that considers both at the same time and weaves back and forth, and constantly remaining open to other forces.

For example when contemplating the topic of leadership several influential and respected names immediately come to mind: Kouzes and Posner, Jack Zenger, Bill Byham, Ken Blanchard, Bill George, Frances Hesselbein, and others. In addition, several topics immediately come to mind: building a team, strategic planning, ethics, leading change, getting results, leadership development, coaching, authenticity, globally savvy, and women in leadership.

When comparing the two lists, you can see there are some immediate matches: Bill Byham and leadership development; Ken Blanchard and ethics; Bill George and authenticity. But who can address the other topics? There is only one person who can be considered for leading change: John Kotter; likewise for getting results: Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood; and coaching: Marshall Goldsmith. Now we still have other leadership experts without a topic. Why not let Kouzes and Posner write about what they know best: the practices of exemplary leaders. The same is true for Jack Zenger: the engaging and inspiring leader; and Frances Hesselbein: leading the workforce of the future.

Rounding Out the Table of Contents

The table of contents is beginning to build. But what about the other topics that we deemed essential? Find the best and most experienced author you can. For example, Len Goodstein has been writing about strategic planning for 30 years or more, and didn't Patrick Lencioni write a couple of great books about leadership and teams? Remember the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) has been doing marvelous work about women in leadership for dozens of years. In fact, should ASTD even publish this book without partnering with CCL. After all, look at the "L" word in the name! Nine CCL authors will write six chapters.

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Well, you get the picture. This is how the Table of Contents for The ASTD Leadership Handbook was born. The end result is 32 chapters by 42 extraordinary authors. The chapters are starting to arrive: six are early, two authors have asked for extensions (that's okay because I can't read them all on the due date anyway), and several others have assured me that their chapters will arrive on time. To say that this is exhilarating is an understatement!

Next Up: Make it Useful

Next week I'll address what we are doing to make The****Handbook useful and practical for you the readers. Post your thoughts and I will work them into my comments.

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