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Reader’s Review

John Baker

Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities
By Mark Gerzon
273 pp. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
Hardback (US) $27.95 


Mark Gerzon is an advocate who has spent a life-time looking at current leadership practices and contending that the modern world requires a new approach for effective leadership.  If the world has become a global environment as more and more signs seem to indicate, his message is that it needs a new type of leadership style to deal effectively with its new multi-dimensional global problems.  Gerzon presents just such a figure in his look at leading through conflict: the mediation leader.  Let us see what he contends. 

Gerzon sees a world in which leadership has been of two types: the demagogue style of leader and the managerial leader.  And yet, it is a world far different from the one many of us yet appreciate. 

Despite the certainty of rapid change, we continue to operate from the old perspective.  We cling to our traditional styles and usual manners of dealing with problems, imagining them still composed of the same limited elements of years before in a world that changes before our eyes.  Alas, our view of the world around us, the problems it presents, the elements in those problems and, of course, the nature of the leadership response to effectively deal with our problems demands a new type of leader for effective operation today.    

In fact, however, socially and culturally, our street corner is beset with new peoples and views and has become a part of the world marketplace whether or not we know it.  It still seems to stand alone, but in reality is understandable only on a more complex manner.  It is a part of the broader world and requires that we treat it so to be effective.   We can no longer operate effectively unless we recognize that what seems to be only the old matters are really multi-dimensional in form and require new approaches for resolution.   

Both the demagogue and the managerial leader of the past defined their world and the problems of their era separate from the broader world.   It was our people, our land, our depression.  The leadership that worked on those issues, Gerson contends, treats a differing problem in a world that has shifted and no longer is equipped with the correct perspective or the tools to right maladies.   

Therefore, he brings us the mediation leader who working from the perspective of a wider world view.   This is a leader who works from a very differing tools kit to attack and deal effectively with modern problems.  Much of the remainder of this book concentrates upon the composition and use of that kit. 

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August 2006