Summary of The Accidental Leader

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  • Applicable


Say the boss drops dead and suddenly you’re the acting boss. Or the company reorganizes, everyone above you is fired and guess who’s in charge. Imagine that your career suddenly becomes one of those movies where the plane starts to go down and some poor, benighted sap finds himself in the pilot’s chair trying to land a 747 on a stormy night on what is either a landing strip or just a long, broad swath of plankton in the water. Can you land it? What do you do? You’re responsible. Suddenly people look at you in a different way. Your friends no longer completely trust you, your enemies are working actively to undercut you and your ability to come to terms with accidental leadership will make or break your career. has a solution: this book. It is full of little motivational tips, kind words and straight talk covering everything from managing complex and difficult teams to firing people (tip: avoid Christmas Eve). The book is thin, a quick read and a good one.

About the Authors

Harvey Robbins is a psychologist, business consultant, trainer and author. Michael Finley is a prolific author and journalist who is well known for his writing on technology. Robbins and Finlay co-wrote the best-seller, Why Teams Don’t Work, which won the Booz-Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award in 1995.



Are You Ready?

Anyone can become an accidental leader. The boss gets fired, keels over or gets assigned to Omaha or Osaka, and someone who never expected to be on top is suddenly on top. That could be you, so before you rejoice, remember that a few complications mar what might otherwise seem like a pretty good career move, including:

  1. Most organizations don’t train leaders in leadership.
  2. You probably don’t have a mentor, because they’re very hard to find.
  3. You know that if you screw this up, you’re history.
  4. You really have to move fast because that’s what people expect, and if you don’t get going quickly, it’s a screw up (see item 3).

Given that, do these things right away:

  • Ease up on yourself. Of course you don’t know much. It’s your first day as a leader.
  • When you call yourself a stupid incompetent, argue with yourself.
  • Fill your mind with thoughts of success.
  • Don’t show every emotion that you feel.

You are a leader now, and you have to conduct yourself differently. Only show those emotions that advance the mission. Smile a lot. It...

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