cover image Credible: The Power of Expert Leaders

Credible: The Power of Expert Leaders

Amanda Goodall. PublicAffairs, $30 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5417-0250-9

Experts with technical background and experience make the best leaders, according to this cogent treatise. Goodall (Socrates in the Boardroom), a leadership professor at London’s Bayes Business School, laments the rise of “itinerant CEOs” and “all-purpose managers” who jump from company to company, suggesting that their ignorance of the industries they work in has disastrous consequences. According to the author, the core qualifications of an expert are industry experience and the ability to excel at the duties of those who report directly to them; when these are met, employees are happier and more productive. Case studies illustrate the failures of corporate “generalists,” as when Goodall tells the story of Andrew Hornby, who had no background in finance when he left his position running a supermarket chain to become the CEO of the British bank HBOS and pushed it to make risky investments that contributed to its demise in 2008. Contending that experts are just as important in government, Goodall shows that Canada’s decision in 2019 to replace epidemiologists with cheaper “generalist civil servants” in its pandemic readiness system impeded the government’s response to Covid-19. The stories of corporate and political folly enrage, and the case for how organizations can promote and reward expertise by fostering “informed dissent” and granting line managers “freedom and responsibility” is well made. This spirited defense of specialists convinces. (July)