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The Favorites Game: The Hesselbein Way

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, April 2011 Intelligence

By: Kristin Clarke

Summary: Frances Hesselbein, president of the Leader to Leader Institute, on her favorite leadership books, trends, and more.

Peter Drucker, father of modern management, would have turned 100 years old while Frances Hesselbein was writing a book chapter he inspired called "Strengthening the Leadership of the Social Sector."

In it and the rest of her new autobiography, My Life in Leadership: A Journey and Lessons Learned Along the Way, she shares her successful application of Drucker's teachings: turning around a near-bankrupt Girl Scouts of America in four years. Later, she partnered with others and Drucker himself to guide the social sector, resulting in the Leader to Leader Institute Hesselbein runs today.

Here are favorite insights she formed along the way:

Favorite reason to lead a nonprofit: May I quote Peter Drucker? "It's not business. It's not government. It's the social sector that may yet save the society."… Then and now, service to live has been what I live by … I realized [leadership] was the great adventure.

Favorite topic to discuss: There's a whole chapter in my first book on banning the hierarchy, and it's on our website []. We throw out old hierarchical charts with people in boxes and … top-to-bottom superiors, and instead we have a wonderfully flat, fluid, flexible circular-management system.

Favorite part of leadership: People and results.

Favorite leadership books: Good to Great by Jim Collins, all of Peter Drucker's works … and the wisdom of John W. Gardner.

Favorite business trend of 2011: We're finding greater focus on and greater investment in corporate social responsibility (CSR). It's amazing how corporations are really investing in community and people. There's a new interest and a lot of energy going into CSR.

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer and researcher for ASAE. Email:

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