The Three Levels of Leadership book has had many reviews. You can read a selection of them below. The first two appeared in published magazines; the others are personal reviews. If you want to know how to buy the book, which is available in print and as an e-book for iPads, click the red Where to Buy button (top right of this page). If you want to read samples of the book's contents, go to the Look Inside page.
“Ten years ago US business thinker Jim Collins, in an influential analysis based on the most thorough research study of its kind, identified the factors that allowed top companies to move from Good to Great, the title of his book. Yet there was a big hole in the explanation.
Collins wrote that a key component was what he called “level 5 leadership”. The leaders of those great companies manifested “a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”. But Collins couldn’t throw light on how such a winning combination had developed in those leaders.
James Scouller makes an impressive attempt to explain that inner development process. [READ MORE...]
His model, called “three levels of leadership” – not to be confused with Collins’ five – distinguishes between public leadership (actions that leaders take in a group setting), private leadership (how they relate to individuals) and personal leadership. This third dimension is about “the leader’s psychological, moral and technical development and its effect on his presence and behaviour”.
Scouller, a Briton who spent 11 years in chief executive roles with international firms before becoming an executive coach in 2004, outlines the “public” and “private” dimensions of his model by drawing on all the main strands in leadership theory in a brisk and practical style. But it’s his attempt to integrate an understanding of psychology and the inner life into his leadership model that is his most original contribution.
He believes there is no single or best way of being a leader. While we can identify key leadership behaviours and knowledge, the way each individual combines and expresses them is unique. But, he says, “our ability to express our unique character traits powerfully but wisely, and use our skills and know-how confidently, without fear, will depend on our level of inner integration, of wholeness”.
There’s the rub. This process of inner integration or “self-mastery” can be even harder work than the more conventional aspects of leadership. We all have unconscious “limiting beliefs” and “defensive behaviours”, says Scouller, which block our full potential, authentic expression and joy in our work. He offers detailed maps and techniques for facilitating self-awareness and change.
Scouller’s model of the psyche and personal change is based on the work of Italian psychotherapist Roberto Assagioli, who was a contemporary of Freud and Jung, and created the school of psychosynthesis. He has updated it to include major developments in psychology such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and the latest insights provided by neuroscience.
Many academically-based management trainers will be suspicious of any attempt to chart the inner experience of human beings, but this book is a serious and measured contribution to the leadership literature. My reservations are not with the theory, but about whether it is realistic to imply that the process of deep psycho-spiritual change can be navigated solely with the help of a book, however good. Very few people would have the discipline or self-awareness to undertake such a project without the help of a good executive coach, ideally one with a psychotherapeutic training.
This book is a competent attempt to fill the gap in Jim Collins’ analysis back in Good to Great. James Scouller has six pages of impressive recommendations at the front. However the absence of Jim Collins from the plaudits suggests the guru himself may not yet be convinced.”
Book's Usefulness Rating: 5/5 “The central tenet of this excellent addition to the leadership discourse is that a leader’s job is to ensure leadership happens, and not to do all the leading themselves. [READ MORE...]
This is critical: our desire for heroes (of either sex) and attachment to simple problem–solution behaviour are out-dated and unhelpful in today’s complex world.
An experienced coach, Scouller makes the case for distributed leadership, based on the core value of self-mastery and the principle of interdependence. He reminds us that we all lead differently at personal, private and public levels.
The most ambitious section of this book – packed with richness and wisdom – is the new model of the psyche Scouller offers. Underpinned by his study of Transpersonal psychology (which sees the spiritual as integral to our humanity) and drawing together ideas from positive psychology, cognitive-behavioural models, NLP, eastern thought and neuroscience, he proposes a model that places self-awareness, will and the imagination at the core of our being. From this, several levels of mind emanate, the whole infused with Love and Power.
This chapter deserves a book in itself, but don’t get stuck in its density – Scouller’s book is eminently practical, full of wit, guidance, techniques, research, case studies and notes.”
"If you want to understand the previously unexplained, elusive characteristics of successful leadership, this explains it in detail like I’ve never seen before. If then you want an action plan to reach the highest levels of leadership, it’s all here. A masterpiece – and written in simple language too."
"The Three Levels of Leadership is by far the best leadership book I have read. James Scouller doesn't rely on analogies and anecdotes from professional sport, warfare and other arenas beyond the experience of most of us. Instead, he introduces us to essential truths. This is when recollection of our own experiences come pouring in – and that is what makes the learning so powerful and durable. It is essential reading – even for those who have already read a lot about leadership – as we owe it to the people we lead to try to improve as leaders. And it’s not just for business people. Teachers, priests, movie directors, parish councillors, trade union officials and school prefects; all would benefit. As could parents, for we all lead more than we think. This may prove to be the definitive book on leadership."
"This book offers a fresh, compelling definition of leadership and powerful new insights into how we can develop as leaders. It’s also instantly readable. But don’t let that fool you; there is extraordinary richness and illumination inside. So much so that The Three Levels of Leadership will change the way we think about leadership. Anyone genuinely interested in becoming a better leader will want to use it as their guide to deep and rewarding personal discovery. It’s not just about you as a leader; much more important, it’s about who you are, what you choose to be, and how you choose to do it."
"The Three Levels of Leadership is superb; one of the very best books I have read on the topic of leadership. It offers current and emerging leaders a comprehensive, unique model and practical resources for enhancing their personal leadership effectiveness. In including self-mastery as part of the model, it takes leadership development to a whole new level. It is a must read for anyone who aspires to be a highly effective and inspirational leader and I am adding this book to my list of ‘essential reading’ for leaders I coach and mentor."
"James Scouller offers a thoughtful, well-researched, practical explanation of how we can integrate 150 years of leadership theory to help people become better leaders. He identifies the missing link in many leadership development programs, books and models, arguing that leaders can learn to express their ‘authentic presence.’ After three decades of teaching leadership, I have now found a book that MBA students and future leaders can use as a tool to develop themselves. If they want to grow their emotional intelligence and learn how to become level 5 leaders, they need look no further than The Three Levels of Leadership."
"James Scouller playfully asks whether the world needs another book on leadership before proving over 270 concise, easy to read pages that the answer is an emphatic yes. ‘Three Levels’ is not a book for the faint hearted, however. James tackles the hardest area for the modern leader, that of the psyche and asks leaders to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror. Those that can take it will be rewarded with a manual packed full of practical wisdom and exercises to tackle the psychological blocks we all face, but sometimes draw back from. By the end, I was arm in arm with James, agreeing that it’s hard to imagine anything that could help a leader’s growth and effectiveness more than self-mastery."
"There are many books on leadership. They offer interesting leadership theories and philosophies that are worth reading. But this one is different – it is a book to read, digest and act on. Although it is written in simple language, the ideas it presents are complex. Yet if leaders fully digest its message, they will have a means to challenge and grow beyond their own patterns of leadership. Gandhi directed us to Be The Change. James Scouller’s book shows us How To."
"If all leaders, or even a few of them, could take to heart and begin to implement just 10% of what James Scouller proposes in The Three Levels of Leadership, organisations (and one day our world) would become a place that truly does reflect the magnificence of the human being."
"This book is extraordinarily valuable. In showing the psychological keys to being a leader instead of focusing on just behaviours and skills, James Scouller offers you the opportunity to achieve true self-mastery. This is what sets it apart from other management books. It’s a ‘must read’ for both experienced leaders and those new to leadership."
"This is a bold and ambitious book that brings clarity and coherence to the much-theorised field of leadership. Connecting the outer tasks of leadership with the underpinning psychology of presence, Scouller provides an accessible, insightful and pragmatic map for helping leaders to be more effective. Beginning with a refreshingly clear redefinition of leadership, we are taken on an engaging journey from the external aspects of leadership, through leadership as relationship, to a far-reaching model of the psyche and practical techniques that will foster a leader’s self-mastery. Leaders at all levels of experience and responsibility will find valuable approaches and tools for cultivating their presence, clarity and impact."
"I love this book; it is a concise and pragmatic guide to the art of leadership. A must-read for anyone wanting to identify and overcome any perceived personal limitations on their way to becoming a better leader."
"The Three Levels of Leadership is an exciting new contribution to the world of leadership. It combines the practical with the visionary and the psychological with the strategic, making an important and welcome contribution to our understanding of what it means and what it takes to be a leader. Scouller’s ability to organise, distil, pull together eclectic sources and translate them into a powerful model of the psyche is reminiscent of Ken Wilber’s prowess. But Scouller wants his book to be practical. Over and again, Scouller pre-empts the reader in asking the killer question: So what? How does this help me as a leader? And he answers clearly in straightforward language that engages the reader in a conversation, making this book a pleasure to read."
"There are many books that help leaders brush up their skills or get up-to-date on the latest management thinking. And there are plenty that tell us what we “should” do as leaders and how we “should” behave. Very few also challenge us to ask ourselves why we act as we do and offer a psychological model to explain why the deeply held beliefs and insecurities that we all carry, derail us and stop us reaching our full potential. This is where The Three Levels of Leadership is different. It offers practical, succinct leadership definitions and principles, but its real value is that it offers a way of tackling our limiting beliefs and an insight into how, by mastering them, our leadership presence can flow – letting us become the leaders we want to be… and that our people deserve."
"The Three Levels of Leadership combines extensive hands-on executive experience with rigorous academic research to provide a readable, practical and actionable guide to achieving leadership excellence. A quick read, it condenses modern leadership theory and practice while introducing original new thinking on personal leadership and how to achieve self-mastery. Any leader committed to personal growth and looking for fresh ideas and models to raise team performance will find this book a useful tool."
"At last, a book which links the ‘outer’ facing elements of leadership with the ‘inner’ development that all true leaders must engage with, if they are to succeed in the long term. The great strength of James Scouller’s model is that it allows any leader, whatever their current level of accomplishment, to place themselves on a practical path to leadership development in the fullest sense."
"The Three Levels of Leadership is a candid, fascinating journey into the keys to effective leadership. It is an essential read for CEOs and Human Resource professionals. Scouller drives the point home that self-mastery is the keystone to a leader’s growth and effectiveness. Through his examples, we understand the challenge and means of freeing ourselves from the ‘false self,’ which helps us create a unique and enduring leadership presence. And he offers a significant piece of wisdom for leaders: that the past is gone, that we only have the now. Scouller reminds us to keenly live in this current state – a message to heed well."
"James Scouller distils the work of researchers and academics down to just three levels. The most original and demanding of these is Personal Leadership – how we remove our hidden limits to personal growth. This book will appeal to aspiring and current leaders in any organisation, public or private, who know they could do better, but don’t know how. Here at last is the guidance they have been looking for."
"How do you become a better leader? The Three Levels of Leadership answers this question comprehensively. I don't normally read books like this, so I was surprised when James Scouller went beyond advice on how to improve your skills to address leaders’ issues of self-doubt. Surprised too to find it easy to read – it feels as though you are having a conversation with him, not listening to a lecture. However, the second part of the book is challenging as it forces you to reflect on stuff you may not have considered before. The genius of this fascinating book is that it's equally helpful for experienced and inexperienced leaders, whether in business or elsewhere.”
"It happened in the past that I had the chance to read books like this and was disappointed. So reading The Three Levels of Leadership was a surprising experience for me. In fact, there were five surprises. The first was how easy it was to read, even for someone like me (I’m French) who does not speak English as their first language. The second was learning that a leader does not always need a magnificent vision or have to be a Napoleon to be effective. The leader could be me. Yes, me! Or you. Because most of what we need is already inside us, we just need to practise. The third was how realistic the book is, for we learn that we will probably not be strong on every leadership behaviour and that most leaders have weaknesses, so we are not alone. The fourth surprise was learning about the psychology of leaders – this goes well beyond what you will read in other books. And the last surprise was how practical it is in helping you develop as a leader, especially the detailed exercises in self-mastery. This is a book you will want to read again and again."
"Nothing truly prepares you for your first leadership role. And often there’s little to support you as you try to grow as a leader. This book helps you with both in a way that’s readable and understandable. It’s the first book I’ve read to unite our thinking around leadership and human psychology in one model and will be a valuable source of reference to leaders as they face and address their limiting beliefs. More important, it offers a framework for developing yourself that’s well explained and points the way to straightforward implementation. In short, it’s a ‘must’ for leaders in any walk of life. However experienced we think we are as leaders, we should all strive to improve ourselves. We owe this to the teams we lead and those who pay us; indeed we owe it to ourselves. Invest time in this book and it will be time well spent."
"This book provides an excellent understanding of what leadership is and how to achieve it. Apart from the ideas presented, it is easy to read and the ideas outlined can be put into place quickly. It will prove an invaluable tool for both leaders and coaches who work with leaders. The author’s expertise lies in how he has put together what it takes to be a great leader and managed to do this in an accessible manner. Occam’s Razor is the term in science that says the simplest solution is usually the most effective. I think readers will see this in action in this book."
"If you’re an aspiring leader, a CEO, a middle manager, outdoor leader, teacher or anyone who leads on a daily basis and want to be the best you can be – The Three Levels of Leadership is for you. Based on extensive personal experience and research, but easy to read, it neatly brings together existing theories and models on leadership. It enabled me to identify why certain leaders I‘ve worked with have been successful and why others haven’t – and allowed me to start applying these same lessons to my own leadership. I’m certain I’ll refer to this book again and again."
"James Scouller has used his long and varied business leadership experience and time as a coach to leaders to present a unique, practical approach to leadership. The Three Levels of Leadership is a very valuable tool."
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