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Principled Leadership for Sustainability

Author: Anna Eliatamby

Reviewed by: Simon Duffy

This short book is a delightful and thoughtful guide for leaders who want to think about the place of values and beliefs in their work and their life. It includes interesting perspectives and some beautiful sayings from the Native American tradition.

The modern world resonates to the imperatives of success, wealth and organisational glory. This book offers a different perspective on what it means to be a leader. Instead of listening to the artificial and shallow values that are exalted by contemporary society Anna Eliatamby asks you to look within, to look at who you really are and who you really want to be - and at the legacy you want to leave.

The book is a mixture of workbook, gentle narrative, collection of prayers and stories. It takes as its starting point the Royal Virtues of Buddha, but it is primarily a call for internal reflection and coherence - are we doing what we really believe in?

The book also offers an interesting distinction between organisations (as structures of top-down control) and ensembles - groups working together from shared values, but groups that also need to learn the discipline of sharing, reflecting upon and challenging those values.

The stories of personal challenge for those in leadership positions are fascinating - I particularly enjoyed the story told by Nan Carle who describes, very movingly, the challenges of leading an organisation through a time of vicious cuts - a very relevant story for many of us today.

I also really enjoyed the Native American sayings that are the centre piece of the book. This was one of my favourites - by Chief Tecumseh (Crouching Tiger) of the Shawnee Nation:

Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if some day I'll be gone away from you.

So live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion;
respect others in their view,
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose
in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide
Always give a word or a sign of salute
when meeting or passing a friend,
even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks
for the food and the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks
the fault lies only in yourself.

Abuse no one and no thing,
for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your times to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled
with the fear of death, so that
when their time comes they weep
and pray for a little more time to live their lives
over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

If you feel that you are part of something that doesn't make sense any more or if you and your team mates want to explore the ethical dimension of your work this would be a great place to start.

The publisher is Spire Publishing Ltd.

Principled Leadership for Sustainability © Anna Eliatamby 2009.

Review of Principled Leadership for Sustainability © Simon Duffy 2012.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.