May 22, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - First Among Equals

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:21 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals by Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister; Free Press; 288 pages; $26.00; Hardcover; April 2002; ISBN 0743225511
In First Among Equals, McKenna & Maister tackle the difficult task of being a group leader within a professional service firm. What makes this kind of management difficult, the authors explain, is not only the inherent hierarchy that emerges when one group member is elevated above others, but that being a group leader tends to counter the individual success that typically leads to compensation in a professionals career. When made a group leader, the professional must find time to lead and still do her own work, because only through doing her own work well, can she be a model for the group. As you can see, this is a sticky situation. While the natural tendency of a firm will be to nominate the most successful professional to the role of leader, it is not typically the most successful who will be the best leader. Instead, McKenna & Maister suggest, the main goal of a group leader is to excite, to spread enthusiasm, to perform the role of chief cheerleader and chief critic. One phrase I particularly liked was that the group leader of a group of professionals is The guardian of the long-term. This shows the different mindset required of a leader.
Unlike many business books which discuss theory and not application, McKenna & Maister will show you exactly how to be a great group leader. This book relies heavily on the thoughts and research of some pretty experienced folks in this field and you will enjoy learning from them. Astoundingly practical information can be found in such chapters as Give Recognition and Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts. In the chapter, Deal with Your Crises, the authors ask: How do you respond to dramatic events?, and they then take you through the steps with which you will calmly handle the situation. They also list in very basic terms the different types of chaos one may come up against as a group leader. For instance, perhaps a key member of the group is leaving, or someone made a mistake, or a client is lost; or an employee must be laid off, or even dies. McKenna & Maister will lead you through it. Nothing like a leadership book that actually teaches you how to lead. This is one book that you will keep on your shelf for years and the pages will be dog-eared.