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The Feiner Points of Leadership

By Michael Feiner

Warner Business Books,

286 pages, $37 Mention leadership, and most of us think of highly visible souls who are great speakers, have a clear vision, have overcome adversity and appear to make their decisions single-handedly.

But Michael Feiner, a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business and former chief people officer at PepsiCo Inc., says leadership is like an iceberg, with 90 per cent of it below the surface.

"Leadership is the aggregation of hundreds upon hundreds of small interactions -- most of which take place out of sight -- projected upon layer upon layer of relationships, day in and day out," he writes in T he Feiner Points of Leadership.

His book sets out 50 laws for handling those complicated relationships and improving your leadership. While many books limit themselves to just seven rules, and major religions manage with only 10 commandments, Prof. Feiner insists leadership in organizations isn't that simple and requires more laws. They include:

The Law of Expectations: People will live up to their perception of your expectations of their performance. To raise performance, raise expectations.

The Law of Commitment: If a leader wants a subordinate to be committed to the success of the leader and the leader's organization, then the leader must be committed to the subordinate -- to his or her growth and development, and to what's important to him or her both inside and outside the office. "To get loyalty, you must give loyalty," he says.

The Law of Feedback: When leaders don't give much feedback, subordinates assume the worst. Feedback can't be left to an annual review, but must be given throughout the year. And it must be more than "attaboy," "nice job," or similar kudos. "It means telling a subordinate what he or she needs to do more of, needs to do less of, or needs to do differently to improve performance," he stresses.

The Law of Make Your Own Bed: To have any chance of building a reasonable relationship with your boss, you must recognize that you're solely responsible for the quality of that relationship -- even if he or she is a knucklehead.

The Law of Who Is That Masked Man or Woman: You need to know your boss -- from goals and priorities to hot buttons, fears, ambitions, and whether he or she likes lots of updates or only check-ins at the completion of a project.

The Law of Professional Commitment: Whether your boss cares about you or not, you must commit yourself to your boss's success.

The Law of The Emperor's Wardrobe: If you don't want to be the victim of a bad boss or an otherwise good boss who is kept woefully in the dark, you must preserve your self-esteem and integrity by knowing how to tell the boss any hard truth that is being ignored.

The Law of The Mirror: When having problems with a peer, start with the assumption you are the problem and don't assume evil intent until you see it.

The Law of The Tombstone: Sharpen your ethical reflexes by developing a detailed written statement of what you stand for in life. Do it before you face an ethical dilemma.

Fifty laws are a lot to remember, even when broken down by categories, such as working with subordinates or dealing with conflict. To help, at the end of the book, Prof. Feiner offers a long list of the kind of situations we face in our working life -- from an arrogant subordinate to a peer who always seems to have a hidden agenda -- and advises which of the 50 laws to use.

Applying them, he acknowledges, is not always easy. But his book gives you a leg up, handling the many issues of leading through relationships in a sensible, practical manner. He also illustrates the rules with lots of memorable stories of his own experiences. It's a terrific book, the best on leadership I have seen this year.

In Addition: Former Philadelphia 76ers president and motivational speaker Pat Croce sticks with seven rules, or "secrets of a self-made leader," in Lead or Get Off The Pot! such as preach your mission from every mountain top, walk the talk and slay your customers with super service. He has some excellent anecdotes and useful advice, particularly on communications and teamwork, although little of it unusual. The book's greatest strength is its zest and can-do philosophy -- urging readers to set out their visions and begin implementing them immediately.

In the last few years, Fox News has overtaken CNN for supremacy in cable news, thanks to its more patriotic stance in the post-9/11 period and the Iraq War, and its realization that personalities, rather than news itself, as CNN believed, could be the star that attracts viewers.

In Crazy Like A Fox (Portfolio, 242 pages, $37.50), journalist Scott Collins offers an absorbing behind-the-scenes view of how CNN fumbled when it came under attack and how Fox New head honcho Roger Ailes led his cable network to victory in the fight for viewers, if not yet advertising.

Just In: Procrastination (Lifelong, 227 pages, $24.95) is a reissue of a book by Jane Burka and Lenora Yuen on why people procrastinate and how to overcome the tendency.

Consultant James Hunter explains servant leadership in The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle (Crown, 224 pages, $33.00).

In Flying High (John Wiley, 298 pages, $35.99) journalist James Wynbrandt looks at JetBlue and its founder David Neeleman, who also helped launch this country's WestJet.

The Manager's Guide To Distribution Channels (McGraw-Hill, 225 pages, $57.95) by Linda Gorchels, Edward Marien and Chuck West looks at how to manage your sales channels for better profitability.

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