April 10, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects -- Questions of Character

By: Jack @ 6:15 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature
by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr., Harvard Business School Press, 221 pages, $26.95 hardcover, April 2006, ISBN 1591399688
When I'm not reading a business book, you'd probably find my nose in a fiction book. There's something about the vivid pictures painted by writers that I have always loved. Plus, a side of life is depicted that is not regularly thought about.
Joseph Badaracco's new book is based on fiction; more specifically, it's based on a business course he teaches at the Harvard Business School. Each year, he assigns students works of fiction like Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Love of The Last Tycoon. Students are expected to look at the characters' challenges through the lens of leadership.
Why fiction? Business case studies and media interviews with executives are (at best) a filtered version of events that occurred. Badaracco says fiction gives you an unparalleled view of what the people are truly thinking and feeling:
"...[S]erious literature offers a view from the inside. It opens doors to a world rarely seen except, on occasion, by leaders' spouses and close friends. It lets us watch leaders as they think, worry, hope, hesitate, commit, exult, regret, and reflect. We see their characters tested, reshaped, strengthened or weakened. These books draw us into leader's worlds, put us in their shoes, and at times let us share their experience."
While other books have tried to using fiction as a basis for business lessons, "Questions of Character" is by far the best and most serious study thus far. Go check it out.
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