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The Book “Presence Human Purpose and the Field of the Future” by Senge et al (2007) is based on three main steps of leadership: Sensing, presencing and realizing. The book states that leadership presents a challenge for every one to become better, wholesome and reflective.
The book gets its name from the presencing step, whereby leaders are advised to retreat, observe and reflect in order to get a deeper understanding of why things happen the way they do.
This book suggests that fresh ideas and knowledge cannot be attained in a frenzy atmosphere and as such, leaders need to detach themselves from all the frenzy that goes on around them, take time to relax and meditate and as a result, come up with “non-decision decisions”.
Senge et al (2008) suggests that a good leader needs to understand his organization well in order to formulate leadership strategies that will be most effective. To this end, the book suggests that leaders need to attain both primary and analytical knowledge, since such is required in the leadership strategy formulation.
Accordingly, the book suggests that primary knowledge allows a leader develops compassion about specific things in an organization and hence he/she act spontaneously, without having to engage in decision-making when faced with items that falls within the primary knowledge.
Senge et al (2008) on the other hand argues that analytical knowledge is more deliberate and involves calculating the consequences of each action or decision that the leader makes.
Overall, this book views leadership as a role that requires a sound clear mind, that is able to tap through different capacities and opportunities through developing a vision, and integrating it into the organization culture.
The book however states that leader should wake up from the notion that they are superior human beings and hence can be on a “doing” mode endlessly. “Leaders need substantial discipline to halt their anxieties and emotions, in order to refocus on what matters to them and the organization they are leading.”
There is a striking difference between the book by Senge at al (2008) and “Getting to yes; negotiating agreement without giving in” by Fisher et al (1991). While the latter focuses mostly on the inner qualities that make good leaders, the other focuses on the interpersonal qualities that makes successful leadership.
Such are identified as: separating the problems from the people, focusing on interests rather than in positions, inventing options that would enhance mutual gains and insisting on objectivity as a criterion in decision making.
As their book title suggest, Fisher et al (1991) lays more emphasis on negotiating and winning, which is an aspect of good leadership.
Fisher & Shapiro (2005) on the other hand in the book “Beyond Reason: using Emotions as you negotiate” suggests that a good negotiator (leader) must learn the art of appreciating the other party depending on their merits, and must also learn to affiliate with people in order to reduce the number of adversaries.
For a leader however, Fisher & Shapiro (2006) suggests that affiliations should be trended with great caution since one can easily be manipulated in the process. Their approach towards decision making is similar to Senge et al (2008), since they recommend that negotiators should learn the art of autonomy in decision making.
As opposed to Senge et al (2008) recommendations on leaders withdrawing from the frenzy, meditating and arriving at a decision, Fisher & Shapiro (2005) argues that a negotiator needs to have the freedom to do what is best for a specific situation.
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This includes making recommendations, inventing options or brainstorming with others. Other concerns identified in this book that a negotiator should address include status and role, where a negotiator needs to demonstrate courtesy and respect in regards to the other party’s status and appreciate their roles in order to foster collaboration.
Reading through these books, one note that they view leadership as an art that requires the leader to make decision, influence people and do what is beneficial for the people they are leading.
Fisher et al (1991) and Fisher & Shapiro (2006) create the impression that a leader needs to be a good negotiator, just as much as he needs to be a good decision maker.
Senge et al (2008) on the other hand creates the impression that good leadership starts from within the leaders mind, and is manifested through his decisions and actions. The three books are similar because they engage the leader/negotiators need to understand how human beings are wired emotionally and psychologically.
The writing style in Senge et al (2008) is distinct from Fisher et al (1991) and Fisher & Shapiro (2006). While the two use direct language that is distinct and precise, Senge et al (2008) is more poetic and engages quotes from renowned people such as Francisco Varela, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi among others.
The outside sources and quotes used in the latter are a rhetoric strategy that I presume the authors use to convince the reader of the viability of their argument. Fisher et al (1991) and Fisher & Shapiro (2006) on the other hand use sound arguments that appeal to one’s reasoning.
The trends noted in the books are that each book focuses on a specific aspect of leadership and addresses the same without divulging to other subjects. Senge et al (2008) for example addresses the belief that proper leadership depends on one’s innate conditions and goes ahead to justify this aspect through out the book.
Fisher et al (1991) on the other hand addresses ways of winning negotiations, while Fisher& Shapiro (2005) has the book informing the reader how to appeals to other people’s emotions in order to win on the negotiating table.
In Senge et al (2008), the authors no doubt had an intention of convincing readers that what is covered in the book is the ideal path to follow if indeed anyone wanted to become a good and effective leader.
As such, I concluded that this book has a ‘self-help’ motive due to the different recommendations that the authors highlighted that leaders should try doing. The other two (Fisher et al, ( 1991); Fisher & Shapiro (2006), had a mixture of mental and physical actions.
The content of the book by Senge et al (2008) is thought to be provoking and has made me view leadership from a different perspective altogether. Previously, I had the impression that leadership skills are inborn qualities that we develop as we interact with our environment.
This book has however opened my eyes to the reality that I can indeed develop leadership skills through deliberately focusing on making myself better through observing the world, reflecting on my observations, allowing my inner-knowledge to emerge and acting naturally.
I also learnt that I can learn a lot about myself through introspection. The understanding gained from such would then be helpful to me in future because I would be more real to myself and others especially when I am in a leadership position.
Quick fixes gives leaders and the people being led little time to collaborate, and when such happens, goals are often not met. Through the book, I learnt that proper time management can be used to avoid such occurrences
Compared to the other two books, I feel that Senge et al (2008) managed to speak to me more personally and deliberately and have hence managed to convince me on what I need to do in order to become a good leader.
However, I also value the proactive approach leadership advise offered by Fisher et al, ( 1991); Fisher & Shapiro (2006) and therefore still considers them good resources for leaders and negotiators.
Fisher, R. & Shapiro D. (2006). Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate (1st Ed). London: Penguin
Fisher, R., Ury, W. & Patton, W. (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In ( 2nd Ed). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Senge, P., Scharmer, O., Jaworski, J. & Flowers, B. S. (2008). Presence Human Purpose and the Field of the Future (1st Ed). New York: Doubleday