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Changing the course of history

Speaking On Stage JB Steenkamp Of UNC Kenan-Flagler

Bold decisions can change history.

In a new book, Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, the Knox Massey Distinguished Professor of Marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, examines how 16 leaders confronted life-changing dilemmas and made decisions that changed the course of history.

Cover Of Book Time To Lead By JB Steenkamp Of UNC Kenan-FlaglerTime to Lead: Lessons for Today’s Leaders from Bold Decisions that Changed History” provides lessons from leaders who span 2,500 years and come from China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, South Africa, Spain and the U.S.

“You can improve your leadership qualities by reading about other leaders, how they resolved their dilemmas, and why they were successful,” says Steenkamp.

“This book is about the actions of great men and women, and what we can learn from them. Not a theoretical treatise on leadership, it illustrates leadership through the actual lives of great leaders – real people making real decisions, struggling to overcome enormous hurdles – and derives lessons that are relevant for us here and now.”

Nelson Mandela, Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Thatcher, Alexander the Great and Franklin Roosevelt are among those he studied. And he shows other lesser-known leaders, such as Themistocles, Clovis and Jacky Fisher, provide equally valuable insights into how individuals made bold, history-changing decisions.

Steenkamp explores how their leadership traits and styles as well as their decision-making processes affected their decisions – and their impact on history.

“They varied greatly on these traits, but they all displayed grit,” he says. “Grit is the common denominator that ties together the lives of all the leaders in this book. It is required to be a great leader.”

He identifies seven leadership styles and examines the historical leaders who exemplify them:

  1. Adaptive: Modify according to the circumstances.
    Clovis, Otto von Bismarck and Deng Xiaoping
  2. Persuasive: Change the minds of your followers.
    Themistocles, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. Directive: Define the marching orders.
    Hernan Cortes and Margaret Thatcher
  4. Disruptive: Break with the past.
    Apostle Peter and Jacky Fisher
  5. Authentic: Set the example.
    George Washington and Nelson Mandela
  6. Servant: Put followers first.
    Florence Nightingale and Martin Luther King Jr.
  7. Charismatic: Buy into the leader, then follow their vision.
    Alexander the Great and Charles de Gaulle

History has been Steenkamp’s passion “as long as I have been able to read,” and his greatest mentor on leadership was his late father, who was active in politics, business and nonprofits.

“Time to Lead,” which will be released Sept. 15, 2020, is Steenkamp’s fifth book. His other books are about hard discounters, global brand strategy, private label strategy and how emerging market brands can go global.

“Marketing and leadership are closely aligned,” he says. “The core of marketing is getting customers – or the people you lead – to do what you want.”

 Steenkamp shares insights for seasoned and aspiring leaders about decision-making based upon the leadership styles and four personality classifications – hedgehog, fox, eagle and ostrich – he identifies.

He includes three assessment tools to help readers determine their leadership styles and guidance on how to make a particular style work. Chapter takeaways, leadership principles and open-ended, reflective questions will help readers learn how to use the same tactics as the leaders in their own lives.

“In ‘Time to Lead,’ Professor Steenkamp actually practices effective leadership himself to guide us; not simply on what to think about leadership, but how to think about leadership,” writes Major General Cameron G. Hold, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force, in the foreword to the book.

“His disciplined storytelling within a well-conceived theoretical framework produces a vivid mental map to deepen our understanding of who we really are as leaders. This book will give you the tools to deepen your wisdom, clarify your thinking and improve your outcomes as your own story of leadership unfolds.”