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“Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You” by Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss – Book Essentials

How should a leader be? What is your favorite CEO style?:

** A CEO that is polite, accepting most of the team’s excuses and under pressure from the Board?


** One that is polite, tough and relatively fair, difficult to work with and well perceived by the Board?

“Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader’s Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You” came in June 2020 to change a bit our views on the efficient leadership styles. There has been much written on the topic of efficient leadership, especially at the CEO level.

The general research literature agrees overall on several traits of an effective leader:

– she gets results…

– … Without damaging the team…

– … Empowers others without giving up control…

– … And overall creates an organisation admires by customers and competitors.

Frances Frei and Anne Morriss offer in their new book a different perspective. Your success as a leader is directly proportional with your ability to unleash the maximum potential in those around you. This leadership potential depends on how far and smart are you empowering the others around you. Of course, this is just an ingredient of an organizations’ success – ultimately no company can survive only on good leadership skills. But this ability to unleash to potential in others can make a big difference in the market, especially when all the basic prerequisites are met:

– strong products line,

– good customer image,

– smooth operations etc.

From ancient history to modern corporate successes, Frei and Morriss look at one of the critical factors in a leader’s success. You as the top spot owner should be zero concerned about your status, success or immediate perceptions. Instead, your main worry should be on how the teams around you are perceived and – even more – how do they achieve results and continue to grow. As the authors underline in one of the chapters, any CEO has a very limited amount of time and energy to achieve results in a day. Pulled from countless directions, their only chance is to focus on essentials and enable the organisation surrounding them become succesful. It does not even matter what market thinks about them as leaders – what is essential is what customers think about its products.

Combining interviews, stories and study-cases on world-class organisation s, Frei and Morris dissect several critical leadership myths:

• A leader can do anything and even more during a normal day,

• a leader should be obeyed and holds the ultimate perspective,

• crowd-wisdom should be balanced by a leader’s seniority.

It is true that a CEO usually holds a lot of organizational experience – however, key to advancing is actually teaching the others how to become better CEOs in their own areas. This accumulation of micro-learnings leads to an upgraded organizational status. In other words, Frei and Morriss come back again and again to an unleashing leader’s attitude: we are in this together, let us look not for excuses – but for solutions.

Naturally, a part of a leader’s success comes from the ability to learn from mistakes, no matter whose they are or how costly they can be. A certain tolerance for team’s errors is critical. Frei and Morris build on that, turning the unleashed leader’s style into an relentless search for improvements. This of course is more and more critical in today’s VUCA competitive environments – where s in vices are copied in the blink of an eye on fa-away time zones. What cannot be easily replicated remains a solid organizational culture – and stopping to apologize is the beginning.

In authors’ view, being unleashed does have positive connotations. The most effective leaders use a total approach of:

– appreciation of those around you,

– trust

  and team inclusion to create an culture of excellence for their organisations. 

It is a difficult task, but must be done, if you want your company to achieve one day Uber’s global impact. “Unleashed” brings a new perspective to the lately discounted alpha-leader approach. Will it be widely accepted? We will see…

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