Too many organizations today play follow the leader: the commander articulates a “vision” and people uncritically go along with it. But this type of leadership—what Dean Williams calls "counterfeit leadership"—generates an unhealthy dependence on an authority figure and relies on dominance, control, and group seduction to get things done. By hampering people's ability to anticipate and react to changing circumstances, it creates a self-limiting cycle. And if the leader's vision is flawed, the entire organization suffers.
The true task of a leader, Williams argues, is to get people to face the reality of any situation themselves and develop strategies to deal with problems or take advantage of opportunities. Real leaders don't dictate; they help people face their challenges and make adjustments in their values, habits, practices, and priorities to ensure the enterprise is given its best chance to succeed. Williams details how to apply this new approach to the challenges every organization or community faces. Throughout, he demonstrates the practical application of real leadership in the real world through examples from his own experiences working with organizations as diverse as the government of Singapore, Aetna Life and Casualty, and the nomadic Penan tribe in Borneo, as well as historical examples and the insights gleaned from his many interviews with presidents, prime ministers, and business leaders. At a time when so many “visionary” leaders have led their organizations to disaster, Real Leadership offers a needed, proven alternative.