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Leading Professionals


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Table of Contents

1: Introduction and overview Part 1: Foundations of Leadership 2: Leadership Constellation: Power, Politics, and Professionals 3: Leadership Dynamics: Co-constructing an Unstable Equilibrium 4: Leadership and Governance: Reconciling the Individual with the Collective Part 2: Leadership and Individuals 5: Leadership Dyads: The Ideal Leader is Two People 6: Leading Insecure Overachievers: The Comforts of Social Control 7: Leading Discreetly: Management Professionals as Consummate Politicians Part 3: Leadership and Organizations 8: Leadership Evolution: Growing Up and Growing Older 9: Leading Mergers: The Ultimate Change Challenge 10: Leadership and Ambiguity: Acting Decisively without Authority Part 4: Conclusions 11: Paradoxes of Leading Professionals: From Unstable to Dynamic Equilibrium

About the Author

Professor Laura Empson is Director of the Centre for Professional Service Firms at Cass Business School, London, and a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession. She has dedicated the past 25 years to conducting academic research into professional organizations, publishing numerous scholarly articles in leading academic journals and editing the Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms. She was previously an Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. Laura acts as an adviser to the leaders of many of the world's most successful professional service firms. Before becoming an academic, Laura worked as an investment banker and strategy consultant. She has a PhD and MBA from London Business School.


The book is a rich treasury of research and insight... It offers plenty of important lessons for leaders in any knowledge business. * Andrew Hill, Financial Times *
This is a landmark study of the issues around leading professionals. The lessons are crucial to leaders of any organization that depends on highly talented, highly motivated, highly demanding individuals. They hold as true in the worlds of media and culture as they do in the traditional professions. * Lord Hall, Director General of the BBC *
Empson's eloquent and superbly researched book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the challenges of organizing knowledge work and of leading knowledge workers through influence and inspiration rather than authority. * Professor Paul Adler, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California *
The higher reaches of the knowledge industry are difficult places to work. And if working in these organizations is tough, leading them is even tougher. How do you lead, cajole, and win the respect of these highly motivated, skittish, and suspicious people? Laura Empson has spent years pondering these questions and Leading Professionals is the highly revealing and accomplished result. * Michael Skapinker, Contributing Editor and Columnist, Financial Times *
Laura Empson has written a deeply engaging and enlightening book about the critical leadership challenges facing professional service firms. Based on extensive research and experience, this book is required reading for anyone who aspires to lead these increasingly large and diverse organizationsand for everyone who understands the central role that professionals occupy in the global economy. * Professor David Wilkins, Harvard Law School *
Laura Empson tackles a hugely complex phenomenon: the nature of leadership in professional service firms, where no one wants to be a follower and leaders only survive through the consent of their colleagues. She has created a truly fascinating portrait of what it means to be a leader in such settings. The book is full of rich insights engagingly told, and often revealed in the words of the professional leaders themselves. This portrait will resonate strongly with practising and aspiring professional leaders who will find much to learn from the stories she tells and the insights she develops. Scholars of management will appreciate her work, not only for its significant contribution to academic knowledge, but also because it speaks to us directlywe are, after all, professionals and struggle with similar issues of leadership in our own working lives. * Professor Ann Langley, HEC Montreal *
A richly detailed analysis of the complexities of modern professional organizations. The observations, based on more than twenty years of research, show a deep understanding of the tensions inherent in all successful firms. For those of us who lead or aspire to lead such firms, the lessons and conclusions are telling and valuable. * Philip Davidson, Managing Partner, KPMG UK *
Professor Empson has made a major contribution to the literature on how professional services firms work and how they are best led. This is very well-researched and insightful analysis, based on a wealth of interviews, and written in a very readable style. All in all, a must on the reading list. * Edward Braham, Global Senior Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer *
This is an exciting and challenging book. It manoeuvres extremely well between what we know, academically, about professional leadership, and the concerns of thinking practitioners. The central ideas of plural leadership, leadership constellations, and ambiguity challenge all of us to re-evaluate our notions of leading professionals. Professor Empson has made an important contribution. * Professor C. R. (Bob) Hinings, University of Alberta *
Partnerships play a vital role in the modern economy. The spirit of partnership is a mystery to those who have not experienced it directly and also sometimes to partners themselves. This book is a highly readable explanation of what makes professional firms work and, importantly, how they are successfully led. * Sir Gerry Grimstone, Chairman of Standard Chartered, Deputy Chairman of Barclays *
This is a must-read for anyone wondering why it is so challenging to lead in professional environments and how to do it more effectively. Empson masterfully brings together findings from research with the lived experiences of those she has studied to provide in-depth and detailed analysis of what it takes to survive and thrive in these politicized, but highly rewarding, work environments. * Professor Mary Uhl-Bien, Neeley School of Business, TCU *
It's accepted wisdom that leading a professional services firm is different from other leadership roles, but very few have been able to explain why and in what ways. Laura Empson unravels this mystery, shining light deep into the underlying challenges leaders face and explaining ways to navigate them. An important book in a neglected and misunderstood area. * Hugh Verrier, Chairman, White & Case *
Professor Empson has done an exceptional job making theory understandable and relevant to those actually involved in leading professional organizations whilst helping those more interested in the theory better understand how the real world works. Leading a professional organization can be lonely and Lauras research insights will help those grappling with the challenges of leadership to realize that they are not alone. * Jeremy Newman, Former Global CEO, BDO *
Empsons latest book lifts the lid on the idiosyncrasies, paradoxes, and tensions of leadership in professional services firms. Featuring insights drawn from hundreds of interviews, Leading Professionals offers invaluable guidance to current / future leaders and management professionals alike. * Wim Dejonghe, Global Senior Partner, Allen & Overy *
A modern global management consultancy practice contains a complex mix of people from differing backgrounds with different cultures and aspirations. Leading them is a daunting task but a task which is helped significantly by the insights within the book. I wish I could have read this book fifteen years ago. * Mike Cullen, Former Global Managing Partner (Talent), EY *

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