Summary of Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer

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Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer book summary

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The two greatest strengths of Michael A. Roberto's book are its honesty and clarity. He admits that most people are uncomfortable with conflict and that many well-intentioned leaders shut down dissent. He's also honest about how likely it is that things will go wrong along the way, at least temporarily. Fortunately, he's also very clear about steps you can take to guide conflict in a productive direction, and why this matters. Roberto analyzes several well-known examples of bad decision making and shows how the absence of dissent or institutional mechanisms that insulated decision makers from essential - though not necessarily positive - information created serious problems. The list is long and chilling: President John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vietnam, NASA and the Columbia shuttle explosion. His discussions will give you a powerful desire to review your organization's decision-making processes and, more generally, its culture. As Roberto himself readily admits, his techniques are not cure-alls, nor easy, but they will lead to improvements. getAbstract recommends this book to managers with decision-making responsibilities and to anyone who is committed to improving organizational functioning.

About the Author

Michael A. Roberto teaches at Harvard Business School and twice won Harvard's Allyn Young Prize for Teaching in Economics. He has consulted with a range of corporations.


Strategic Decisions, Strategic Choices

If you make the wrong decision, you can cost your business a lot of money. Even worse, you may not realize the results of your judgment right away. To improve your chances of making good decisions, evaluate your decision-making process. Actively direct the process, rather than passively letting it happen.

The explosion of the space shuttle Columbia is a tragic example of one kind of poor decision making. The U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) employed some of the world's finest scientists. They tried to tell the people in charge information that could have prevented the explosion, but NASA's internal structures enabled the decision makers to hear only what they wanted to hear. To enable yourself to make good decisions as a leader, encourage people to deliver unpleasant information - without fear of retribution.

Myths about making decisions abound:

  • Myth: Making good decisions is difficult - Fact: Implementing good decisions is difficult. Your team must understand the decision and commit to it whole-heartedly. Lack of understanding leads to blind obedience and clumsy implementation...

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