Summary of When Professionals Have to Lead

A New Model for High Performance

Harvard Business Review Press, more...

When Professionals Have to Lead book summary
An insightful guide to managing professional-service firms through changing times.


8 Overall

8 Applicability

8 Innovation

7 Style


Harvard professors Thomas J. DeLong and John J. Gabarro and professional services consultant Robert J. Lees offer a straightforward exposition of the threats professional services firms face today. They detail the steps companies should take to meet current marketplace demands. In this thorough examination, the authors first focus on the transitions occurring in the professional services industry. Some firms have become publicly traded corporations with responsibilities to shareholders. Others struggle to find and retain talent or to maintain harmonious relationships among partners. The Internet and inroads from larger product-oriented corporations erode personal client relationships. Some smaller firms look to corporate models for guidance on reorganization, though services firm leaders often handle a great deal more direct client contact. These firms need a new model, so DeLong, Gabarro and Lees sketch its outlines. Their approach focuses on setting strategy – a task services firms often neglect – and aligning associates and new hires with a long-term vision. Leaders should be accountable and should exemplify the firm’s best practices.
Previously, firms developing a strategy worked with three defined areas of segmentation: efficiency, experience and expertise. The authors offer viable new ways for firms to define themselves in an increasingly commoditized industry. Service sector professionals are high achievers; they need feedback and mentoring to stay motivated and on track. Too often firms focus only on their highest and lowest performers without helping middle-tier talent advance. In an industry once driven by family firms and local loyalties, the responsibilities of service managers changed as the market shifted. Although managers at large corporate services firms are probably already familiar with this strategy-focused approach, getAbstract strongly recommends it to all service industry professionals, even those without leadership responsibility.

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