Summary of Leading from the Roots

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Leading from the Roots book summary

Editorial Rating



  • Visionary
  • Concrete Examples
  • Inspiring


Organizational development expert Dr. Kathleen E. Allen offers a book that is beautiful in concept and intent. She argues that firms, like people, should realize that when they pursue selfish goals, they can expect only short-term, pyrrhic victories. She advises that to build lasting and adaptive organizations, leaders should  consider  the elegant examples that nature provides. To increase mindfulness, Allen offers powerful examples and ideas from which any company can chart a worthy course of action.

About the Author

Kathleen E. Allen, PhD, has spent the past several decades working with leaders and their organizations to accelerate positive change.


Most organizations consume. They focus on the short term, and extract all they can from their employees, customers and the Earth.

In northern India, living bridges made from the roots of trees span the rivers, allowing people to cross even during monsoon season. The ancestors of today’s residents trained the roots almost two centuries ago. These ancestors knew that neither they nor their children would reap the benefit of their work. The root bridges will exist in harmony with the humans who use them for another 500 years, costing nothing and helping people, animals and the environment.

Most organizations waste resources and energy by having a short-term focus, an extraction mentality and a tendency to operate in competitive silos. When leaders coerce and control, they unnecessarily weaken their firms’ resilience and agility by disengaging their people. In taking whatever they can from their employees, customers and suppliers and from the Earth, they damage crucial relationships and the world around them.

“Generous” organizations give back more than they take and make long-term decisions.

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