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Don't Kill the Bosses! Escaping the Hierarchy Trap

Samuel A. Culbert and John B. Ullmen

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Format: Hardcover, 200pp.
ISBN: 9781576751619
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler
Pub. Date: September 2001

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

  • Offers a revolutionary approach to management that preserves the positive aspects of hierarchical structures while overcoming the warped communications and poor morale that often plague them
  • Provides the practical means for achieving open and above-board boss/subordinate give-and-take
  • Uses case studies from the authors’ consulting practice to show how their approach leads to honest communication, authentic teamwork, esprit de corps, and greater accountability

Don’t Kill the Bosses! is not about killing bosses per se; it’s about fixing companies by killing the idea of boss-dominated relationships. Don’t Kill the Bosses! takes you to the core of boss/subordinate relationships to point out what’s systematically flawed and needs correcting: Subordinates spin the truth for consumption above while bosses fail to establish the conditions required for subordinates to tell it to them straight. Don’t Kill the Bosses! provides an alternative model. It details the system changes required for the type of candid, equal footing relationships and two-sided accountability that allow hierarchy to work productively.

The boss/subordinate relationship is an age-old problem cited in almost every management book and on-the-job survey as an area rife with dishonesty and inefficiency. All too often, subordinates spin the truth for those above while bosses fail to establish the conditions required for subordinates to tell it to them straight. The end result is warped communication, corrupt internal politics, illusionary teamwork, pass-the-buck accountability, and personal dispiriting-and the company is always the big loser.

Don’t Kill the Bosses! reveals the “trap” created when people fail to differentiate between the positives of hierarchical structure and the negatives of hierarchical relationships. Far from being opposed to hierarchy, the authors believe strongly that an accurate and cleanly defined organization chart is vital. But they show how to implement an alternative model of hierarchy: two-sided accountability. Drawing on case studies from their consulting practice, Culbert and Ullmen show how this new model leads to a freer flow of information, more creative problem-solving, and quicker response to changing conditions.

Unlike other books that acknowledge boss/subordinate relationships as a systematic, continuing problem and offer skill development suggestions for dealing with it, Don’t Kill the Bosses! tells how to think about the problem in a way that will enable readers to understand the steps they need to take to change things. It diagnoses what’s missing in boss/subordinate relationships, connects what’s wrong with them to personal and organizational outcomes, and defines the whole new mentality required to make them work successfully.


“If you really, really read this book, it’ll change your life. (I guarantee it.) If lots of people read this book closely, it’ll change the world. (No bull.) The book is that good!”
—Tom Peters

“Culbert and Ullmen introduce a stunning new concept, two-sided accountability, which reframes the foundations of how people view hierarchy and relationships.”
—Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Management, University of Southern California, and author of Managing the Dream

“You will learn in this book that two-sided accountability leads to straight talk and better communications. Finally, a book with practical advice that managers can use day-to-day to get better results.”
—Philip J. Harkins, President and CEO, Linkage, Inc.

“As a manager very much concerned with the effectiveness and dynamics of teamwork I can assure you this is a must-read book for anyone with similar corporate goals.”
—Mitch Kupchak, General Manager, Los Angeles Lakers


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About the Authors 
Samuel A. Culbert is Professor of Management at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. He also has an active consulting practice, specializing in areas of teamwork, organizational effectiveness, executive communication, trust-building, leadership development, and corporate strategizing. Culbert is the author of several books, including The Invisible War: Pursuing Self-Interests At Work (with John J. McDonough), which won the AAP award as the best business and management book published that year, and Mind-Set Management: The Heart of Leadership. John Ullmen is the Senior Manager for Organizational Effectiveness at Earthlink. He has broad independent consulting experience in teambuilding, management coaching, network analysis, organizational change, and business development. A cofounder of Jetset Heaven, Inc., Ullmen has also been a consultant in the Management Communication Program at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management for the last four years.

Table of Contents
1Recognizing the Hierarchy Trap
2Accountability is the Core Problem
3You’ve Got to Use What You Know about Human Nature
4Business Partnering Offers an Escape
5Business Partnering and Individual Effectiveness
6Business Partnering and Team Effectiveness
7Business Partnering and Organizational Effectiveness
8“Don’t Kill The Bosses!”-- Using Hierarchy to Promote Business Partnering
9What “Don’t Kill the Bosses! ” Can Do for You: Who Benefits and How?

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