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Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading
Marty Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz

Retail Price: $35.00
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Format: Hardcover, 256pp.
ISBN: 9781633692831
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Pub. Date: Revised ed. edition July 11, 2017

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Item No: 9781633692831

Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

Every day, in every facet of our lives, opportunities to lead call out to us. At work and at home, in our local communities and in the global village, the chance to make a difference beckons. Yet often, we hesitate. For all its passion and promise, for all its excitement and rewards, leading is risky, dangerous work.

Why? Because real leadership-the kind that surfaces conflict, challenges long-held beliefs, and demands new ways of doing things-causes pain. And when people feel threatened, they take aim at the person pushing for change. As a result, leaders often get hurt both personally and professionally.

In Leadership on the Line, renowned leadership authorities Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky marshal a half century of combined teaching and consulting experience to show that it is possible to put ourselves on the line, respond effectively to the risks, and live to celebrate our efforts. With compelling examples including the presidents of countries and the presidents of organizations, everyday managers and prominent activists, politicians and parents, the authors illustrate proven strategies for surviving and thriving amidst the dangers of leading:
  • "Getting on the balcony": stepping back to get perspective while remaining fiercely engaged
  • "Thinking politically": keeping the opposition close, but watching your allies, too
  • "Orchestrating the conflict": using stress productively to work the issues
  • "Giving the work back": putting the responsibility on those who need to make the change
  • "Holding steady": maintaining your focus while taking the heat

The authors also address often-neglected aspects of leadership, such as how to manage your personal vulnerabilities, and how to anchor yourself and sustain your spirit through tough times.

Both uplifting and practical, this essential book enables each of us to lead courageously and confidently-without losing ourselves.


"This is not a conventional book about how to inspire and lead a large organization. It is a much more ambitious work that describes the personal challenges and tactical problems that arise in trying to exert a constructive influence in all kinds of organizational settings. In its wealth of examples, insights, and suggestions, every reader will find ideas of genuine value."
—Derek C. Bok, President Emeritus of Harvard University and author of The Trouble with Government

"With stories that are inspiring and sobering, Heifetz and Linsky show us the perils of leadership and offer us the keys to survival. This book will be indispensable to anyone trying to make big changes in how their company does business."
—Robert Iger, President and COO, Walt Disney Company

"This practical guide to the art of leadership contains wisdom for us all, combining vivid stories with intellectual rigor. The authors honor the notion that we each have unique gifts to offer, and through our offering we can both serve the common good and, in so doing, derive a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives."
—The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church in the United States

"Chock-full of political wisdom as well as wisdom for the soul. Anyone with passion to make a difference in public life ought to read this book before taking another step."
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian and author of No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - The Home Front in World War II

"Leadership on the Line could also be called 'High Risk, High Payoff.' Having the courage to step forward with solutions regardless of an accepted pecking order is what real leadership is all about. Overcoming the perils of leading and the satisfaction that comes in doing so is the theme of this splendid work."
—Lieutenant General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret.) Senior Fellow for National Security, Council on Foreign Relations

"There are many books about leadership, but I know of none more realistic about the risks and rewards of challenging an organization than this one. It is 'tough love' applied to the real world."
—David S. Broder, The Washington Post

"This book goes well beyond making a significant contribution to the field of leadership. Heifetz and Linsky leverage their formidable professional and personal experiences to show all of us, at work and love and play, how to lead and live more fully."
—Warren Bennis, University of Southern California, coauthor of the forthcoming Geeks and Geezers: How Era,Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders


readers index
Reader's Index 
Send us your favorite quotes or passages from this book.

• "The hope of leadership lies in the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way that people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignore it or kill the messanger." Pg. 12
• "When you belong to the organization or community that you are trying to lead, you are part of the problem. In short, you need to identify and accept responsibility for your contributions to the current situation, even as you try to move your people to a different, better place." Pg. 90
• "If you are attacked, discredited, ostracized, or fired, you may feel that you have experienced a kind of assassination. But yuo cannot expect people to seriously consider your idea without accepting the possibility that they will challenge it. Accepting that process of engagement as the terrain of leadership liberates you personally." Pg. 190

About the Authors

Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky are on the faculty at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Heifetz is the author of Leadership Without Easy Answers and Co-director of the school's Center for Public Leadership. Linsky is Faculty Chair of many of the school's executive programs, including Senior Officials in State and Local Government and Leadership for the 21st Century.

Table of Contents
Part One: The Challenge
1The Heart of Danger9
2The Faces of Danger31
Part Two: The Response
3Get on the Balcony51
4Think Politically75
5Orchestrate the Conflict101
6Give the Work Back123
7Hold Steady141
Part Three: Body and Soul
8Manage Your Hungers163
9Anchor Yourself187
10What's on the Line?207
11Sacred Heart225
About the Authors251

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