New Book Release Authored by Andersen Alumnus Timothy T. Lupfer: Leadership Tough Love: Examining Leaders through the Lens of Reality

Timothy T. Lupfer, Andersen Alumnus, is a graduate of the US Military Academy (West Point) and Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), and is a retired Managing Director from Deloitte Consulting LLP, and a retired Lt. Colonel of the US Army

As I was sitting down to catch up on my reading a few years ago, I grabbed a prominent US business magazine that proclaimed as its cover story, “The World’s Greatest Leaders.” As I went over their list, I saw the usual suspects, well-known business and political figures. Certainly, these people occupied high positions in large organizations, but I knew the reputations of some of them, and a few of them certainly were not good leaders. It was the inclusion of a pop star that put me over the edge. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “She has amazing individual talent, but that doesn’t automatically make her a great leader.”

That article clarified for me the problem we face about leadership: muddled thinking. We have come to equate exalted position, celebrity status, or individual talent for leadership. So, I have written a book, Leadership Tough Love: Examining Leaders through the Lens of Reality, to help get us back on track. My book contains some ideas that run counter to a lot of contemporary thinking about leadership, and some of the ideas may even be heretical, but my intent is to get us to take a hard look at leadership, something we need so desperately today, and something we need to develop more vigorously in our organizations.

I begin with a precise definition of leadership: the role of affecting followers to achieve the organizational goals. One of the key words is role: you’re a leader when the organization assigns you a position and mission to get people to reach the goal. I am neutral about the word leader itself: you can be a good or bad leader, effective or ineffective. But it is the role that makes you a leader, and it involves followers, those human beings you must affect to get the goals of the organization accomplished.

I’ve often heard people in organizations say, “In our organization, everyone is a leader,” but I have found that mantra to be inaccurate in most cases. I have observed that some people want to focus solely on a body of knowledge or a process. They are specialists. They can be extremely valuable members of the group, and specialists have contributed mightily to our overall success in society. But I have also noted that, in many cases, specialists don’t want to become leaders; they don’t want to assume the burden of having the responsibility to lead others. And that’s perfectly OK. The problem I have noted is that too many organizations don’t make the distinction between leaders and specialists, and they promote a specialist to a leadership role when the specialist has neither the desire nor the ability to assume that role. For abundant evidence that specialists are often not automatically effective leaders, look no further than sports, where the best player is most often not the ideal coach or manager of a team.

I propose in my book that the effective leader employs three essential elements:

  • Gives Direction
  • Demonstrates Capabilities
  • Embodies Character

But these three elements interact in a complex manner. Character is the most significant element for a leader to inspire followers, but Character can only be effective when it is layered upon existing abilities to give Direction and demonstrate Capabilities. In other words, good intentions alone will never guarantee leadership success. And the flip side is also sobering by gaining success by effectively giving Direction and demonstrating Capabilities, some leaders can mask deficiencies in Character, at least in the short run. That is why we must work very hard at knowing what to look for, and what to develop, in leaders.

My book concludes with insights on how to develop your own leadership abilities and how organizations can better assess and develop leaders. Leadership is far too important to be lost in vague concepts that don’t relate to its fundamental purpose: harnessing the efforts of many people to get the job done. It’s available on Amazon if you would like to order a copy.